Contest #152 winner 🏆

Foretold in Smoke

Submitted into Contest #152 in response to: Set your story in an oracle or a fortune teller’s parlor.... view prompt

125 comments

Drama Fiction Urban Fantasy

Content Warning: Mild foul language


Marie S. 5/5 Stars

Vivienne is incredible! My life has completely changed since my visit. It’s like a light came on and she’s somehow unlocked all this hidden potential. She’s the best, seriously just go. Call today!

Bradley J. 5/5

Worth every penny. Highly recommend.

Kevin R. 5/5 Stars

I never thought I’d come to a place like this, but when I was at an all-time low, I just needed someone to tell me if life was worth sticking around for. I wanted to know if it ever got better. Vivienne made me believe that it would. She told me true love was right in front of me, and now I’m dating my best friend and am the happiest I’ve ever been. She’s the real deal.

Linda K. 5/5

Vivienne showed me the most beautiful future and now I am not afraid to go after my passions. Life changing.


I know your type. You’re all the same. You come to me, seeking something you believe life has withheld from you. Desperation hangs on you like a garment; you wear insecurity like a second skin. You shift and fidget in my doorway, hoping no one will recognize your car in the street and spread the word that you’re seeking wisdom from a godless heathen and her crystal ball. Yet, here you are.

My polished greeting pulls you a few steps closer into the dimly lit room, where you stare at the artwork on the wall, trying to decipher its abstraction. You fumble over a compliment when I admit I painted it myself. Your nose twitches at the cloud of earthy smoke hanging in the stagnant air, and your ear tilts toward the sharp plucking of unfamiliar instruments—music trilling softly from a hidden speaker. The sound is heady, exotic, and makes the hair on your arms rise. The caricaturistic experience you expected is something different—its alive, sacred, and it smells like singed aloeswood.

I sense the conflict within you—to stay or to flee, to grasp hold of your future and drag it into today, or to return to life as normal and submit to the natural process of discovery. You twist and wring your hands, afraid you’re damning yourself, or cursing your bloodline by setting foot in this den of witchcraft, or whatever it is they’re calling it these days. But I am no one to fear; I am a respectable businesswoman. But you must make your own choice, so I remain silent, waiting for you to remember whatever it is that brought you here.

At last, you move. You approach me like I am an oasis in the desert, doubting what you see, but desperately wanting it to be real. You are afraid to ask, afraid of the answers. I sense your struggle; I see your soft heart, your goodness and warmth, your suppressed potential suffocating under self-doubt. You are afraid to know what lies ahead because you have grown comfortable letting life rush by you. It is a river, coursing where it wills, and you are a leaf at its mercy. What I tell you will alter the course of your life, not because the words on my lips drip with inherent power, but because you will believe them. 

You are the river. You are the force that cuts a path through the unknown, that courses where it wills. You are a rush of life, pure and sweet, with the power to shape and form and forge your own future.

My gift to you is no parlor trick, my predictions are not conjecture; I simply tell you what you are, and what to look for, and you will find it every time.

I do not spin the threads of fate, but occasionally, I give the threads a gentle pluck.


***


Jim B. 1/5 Stars

Filing a police report. This woman is a scam artist.


Maurice W. 1/5 Stars

Waste of time and money. Basically told me my life was going to shit. Real downer. And the incense smelled like burnt hair.


Bryson D. 1/5 Stars

This is why I don’t trust hippy-dippy, twinkle-dust, voo-doo garbage. Creepy art, obnoxious music, and some old hag just getting off on telling people how terrible their life is going to be. And no refund policy? Well, f*** you.



I know your type. You’re all the same. You come to me, seeking something you believe life has withheld from you. Arrogance hangs on you like a garment; you wear disdain like a second skin. You burst through my doorway, ignoring the closed sign in the window, insisting you just need a few minutes from this crazy lady and her crystal ball.

Your eyes adjust to the dimly lit room, and you squint at the artwork on the wall. You recoil, unsettled by its abstraction: its unorthodoxy disgusts you, makes you squirm. You cover your nose and cough against the cloud of bitter smoke hanging in the air, swishing your arms like an aggravated primate. The twanging of unfamiliar instruments rises above the silence, warbling from a hidden speaker. The sound is eerie, foreign, and makes goose-flesh ripple across your arms. The stock-image experience you anticipated is something altogether different—it’s alive, sinister, and it smells like fire.

I sense no hesitation within you—you have come to grab the future by its horns and demand it bend and submit to your desires. You are impatient with life’s natural process of discovery and want to know what obstacles lie ahead on the path on which you’re blindly running. There is no fear of the consequences of knowing, no regard for how it will change the now. You want answers, and you will have them. You claim a chair and wait, twisting and wringing your hands impatiently until I join you across the small table.

You watch me like a stray dog you think might bite, your jaw set in defiance against anything you’re prepared to reject. Because you don’t want the truth. You want to be immersed in shimmering nonsense, to stretch out your palm and receive a shiny token of fabricated tales, to be placated by promises of a glowing future. I sense your coldness, your heart of stone, your resentment of everything that stands in your way. What I will tell you is the truth, and the truth will unfold as I tell it—not because I have cursed you, not because I am a she-devil hiding under beads and bangles, but because you are a curse to yourself. And you know it.

You are rot—an infection that will spread across all your days. Everything you touch will wither and die, and you can only blame yourself.

My words are not a hex on your soul, I don’t speak out of malice; I simply show you what you already know.

I do not spin the threads of fate. I have no blade to sever their fibers.

But occasionally, I test the threads and hold a flame beneath the strands to watch and see what burns.

July 02, 2022 02:43

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125 comments

Michał Przywara
20:19 Jul 02, 2022

Fantastic, Aeris :) The first part was already a neat piece by itself, a look behind the veil, at how magic really works. A word of encouragement here, a figure of supernatural authority giving you permission to take risks, to start living life. That by itself is worth a story. But then you double down with the second part, the delicious, vicious flip side. Because of course there's a second side to this. We balance the timid-to-the-point-of-cowardly who have everything to look forward to, against the courageous-to-the-point-of-ruthless, w...

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Aeris Walker
01:07 Jul 03, 2022

Thanks Michal! I think I speak for everyone here when I say how much it means that you read our stories so intentionally, with such great attention to detail and meaning. You summed up the two types of people perfectly, so I’m pleased you received the story the way I intended.

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Michał Przywara
21:05 Jul 08, 2022

Congratulations on the win, Aeris :D

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Aeris Walker
23:51 Jul 08, 2022

Thank you, Michal! 😊😊

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Rebecca Miles
06:19 Jul 02, 2022

Aeris this whole piece sings; it is my absolute favourite of all the ones I've read from you. Your testimonies are absolutely spot on and add perfectly to the structure: the glowing ones followed by the open enthusiasts; the acidic ones by the hardened sceptics. Presiding above it all is your master fortune teller who appraises it all with just the precision you'd expect from someone who studies carefully the people for the fortunes they make themselves. Running like a thread in each closing section, the allusions to the Fates. Have you rea...

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Aeris Walker
12:38 Jul 02, 2022

Thank you, Rebecca!! I so appreciate you reading my work and being a part of my writing journey—I think encouragement is one of the best things writers can give each other and you offer it so graciously. I remember reading Heart of Darkness in an early English class, but it’s been a looonngg time. But you picked up exactly what I was going for—a nuanced allusion to what this woman’s power may or may not be over these people. Thank you, again.

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Nandini Shukla
04:59 Jul 09, 2022

Aeris! Some splendid work you did there. "But occasionally, I test the threads and hold a flame beneath the strands to watch and see what burns." "I do not spin the threads of fate, but occasionally, I give the threads a gentle pluck." I love how two somewhat similar concepts are portrayed so differently by you. These two lines were honestly gorgeous. Simple yet elegant, your story showed different types of people. Sincerely enjoyed the versatile views you have presented from the "oracle lady's" pov. I also loved how you showed what she'd...

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Aeris Walker
10:59 Jul 09, 2022

Hi Nandini! Thank you so much for reading and leaving your kind thoughts. I’m glad you enjoyed the story 😊

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Carla Ward
17:55 Jul 10, 2022

This was a very original and deeply perceptive story. You demonstrate a stunning knowledge of human nature. In the end, our lives are what we invest in them. Those who are merely timid or struggling or anxious but open often need just a little push to fly, while those who are narrow, selfish, demanding, and emotionally barren are the architects of their own unhappiness and frustration. Loved this.

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Aeris Walker
18:52 Jul 10, 2022

Hi Carla! Thank you so much reading. I love how you described that, “architects of their own unhappiness.” That’s exactly what I was trying to portray. So glad you enjoyed the story!

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Zack Powell
18:21 Jul 03, 2022

Well done, Aeris! Repetition is easily my favorite literary device, so whenever I see a story like this, where the back half of the story mirrors the front half, I'm always excited to see which lines get remixed and how it changes the sentiment/tone/feel of the story. Needless to say, this piece didn't disappoint. Lot of good things going on in this piece. I'm a huge fan of this type of dual 1st/2nd POV. Gives us a good sense of voice from the fortune teller while putting the reader directly in the "you" role. It feels like a direct address...

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Aeris Walker
01:18 Jul 05, 2022

I so appreciate you reading and commenting, Zack, you a truly such a wonderful part of this community! And I think part of what makes you such a great writer as well is that you read so intentionally and pay close attention to what works or doesn’t work for you in all of these stories, then implement that in your own writing. Beyond any competition, encouragement like this is such a reward, so thank you.

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Zack Powell
02:25 Jul 05, 2022

Thank you for this lovely compliment, Aeris! Fun fact: I don't visualize anything when I read. All I have are the words on the page, no mental images, hence the majority of my comments to people being related to structure/storytelling mechanics (i.e. line breaks, POV, word choice). And you're right: when I read, it's to pick up tips and tricks on how to improve my these things in my own work. Luckily, there are a boatload of amazing writers on this site, so there's never any shortage of new techniques to try out. (By the way, I've picked up ...

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Aeris Walker
11:13 Jul 07, 2022

I agree—it’s amazing to see how everyone approaches the same prompts from a completely different angle. Glad we can all inspire each other :)

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Zack Powell
14:54 Jul 08, 2022

Aeris! Congratulations on the win! Well-deserved, and I'm happy to see your name on the front page!

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Aeris Walker
15:18 Jul 08, 2022

Thank you so much Zack!! It’s such a surreal feeling 😬

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Aeris Walker
11:13 Jul 07, 2022

I agree—it’s amazing to see how everyone approaches the same prompts from a completely different angle. Glad we can all inspire each other :)

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Jim Firth
13:28 Jul 02, 2022

Aeris, Immaculate as ever! This flows so well and I didn't notice that it was in second person until a good way through because of the seamless and natural voice. There's good mysterious vibes, but I can still relate to the oracle. It was clever to preface the narrative with the polarising reviews. As I was reading the 1 star reviews, I was relishing how the oracle would react. I thought she was going to be irate, but I like how she sticks to her guns because it only ads to her mystique. Keep up the great work! I always look forward to y...

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Aeris Walker
14:04 Jul 02, 2022

Thank you, Jim! I so appreciate your kind feedback. I’m still not quite certain if this technically falls into second POV or not, since it is still coming from a character’s perspective but just as more of an inner monologue with her contrasting types of clients, but I’m glad the POV felt natural! That’s always a risk when trying something unique is that the effect comes across as jarring and disorienting instead. Looking forward to your next story too ;)

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Jim Firth
14:24 Jul 02, 2022

Yes, you're right. Whenever I see lots of you's repeated I think 'OoOoOoOoh second person!' But I think it could be in first person? I'm a bear of too little brain to know. Anyhow, it doesn't matter which POV it's in if the end result works, which it does!

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Riel Rosehill
10:42 Jul 02, 2022

Oooh I love this! You picked my number one fave prompt of the week as well :D Adored the parallel between the first and the seconf half and how they mirrored each other. Excellent. And the last sentence... yess. It's my favourite one here. Loved it so much - I enjoyed the first half, it was stunning, but it was when I got to the one star reviews and the line "I know your type." making a comeback was when I thought: genius.

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Aeris Walker
03:49 Jul 03, 2022

Hey Riel! Thank you, thank you. I loved this prompt too, and was worried it might have already been too saturated with stereotypical fortune teller tales, but I just couldn’t resist. Ugh. That last line went through a lot of changes, so I’m so glad it hit home! Thanks for reading and for leaving your feedback—you’re always such a ray of sunshine ☀️

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Riel Rosehill
14:56 Jul 08, 2022

Aeris! Congrats for the win!! :D

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Aeris Walker
15:19 Jul 08, 2022

Thank you, Riel!! I really appreciate it 😊

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Jay Mc Kenzie
07:43 Jul 02, 2022

Aeris, this is beautifully written. I love the second person POV and the two sides of the penny. I love the two perspectives and the way you've mirrored the language on each side. Lovely interpretation of the prompt. I just listened to Roxie Goes Rogue on Blue Marble too. Thoroughly enjoyed your reading of it and laughed so hard. I hope you record more stories.

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Aeris Walker
12:24 Jul 02, 2022

Thank you, Jay! I really appreciate you reading. And listening—that was a new (and slightly nerve wracking) experience for me, but reading stories really seems to bring them to life in a whole new way. So thank you for your encouragement 😊

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Lily Finch
02:14 Aug 11, 2022

Thank you, Aeris for such a wonderfully crafted piece of work. I enjoyed this story. Thank you again, LF6

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Aeris Walker
15:15 Aug 13, 2022

Thanks so much, Lily! I really appreciate you reading it 😊

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Joseph Viel
05:03 Aug 08, 2022

I decided to date this fortune teller. With voodoo magic that is alive in the hustle of fiction, the matter of making a financial gain was surefire momentum. And all I had to do was turn the engine over. Running on the tried and tested wisdom of elders. Lives that are alive again in the settled paths that are now being worn with our steps; the unknown that is under exploration finding it's bearing at understanding our minds. There is much do be done with collectives at thought. "Yeah we are the ones driving!" Worry soaked her statement in r...

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Raluca .
13:58 Aug 01, 2022

A very in-depth analysis of the human mind you did there! It's very cool how though this we can see what would be behind these star reviews and how they could affect the "seller". It's pretty cool how your character changes their attitude according to the "type" of the person in front of them. This line will stay with me: "You want answers, and you will have them. "

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Aeris Walker
03:17 Aug 04, 2022

Thank you so very much for reading and leaving your thoughts! I’m glad that line left an impact :)

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Teresa Renton
09:40 Jul 23, 2022

Wow! Clever and insightful writing. The end was just brilliant.

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Aeris Walker
10:31 Jul 23, 2022

Thank you so much, Teresa!

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Athena Reyes
20:47 Jul 22, 2022

This is perfection! Was a thrill to read. First read a while ago. But had to come back and re-read again.

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Aeris Walker
10:30 Jul 23, 2022

Aw, well thank you for giving it a second read through-what a huge compliment ☺️

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Andi Hyland
00:30 Jul 20, 2022

Such an intriguing piece skillfully put together. Congrats on the win.

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Aeris Walker
12:33 Jul 21, 2022

Hi Andi, thank you so much!

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Kayada Cloud
16:17 Jul 18, 2022

This is beautiful. It's beautifully written. It is gorgeous.

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Aeris Walker
12:33 Jul 21, 2022

Thank you so much!!

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Avery Mossop
01:50 Jul 18, 2022

I love your writing! I am blown away by the way your words, sentences, paragraphs all flow so seamlessly. The split perspectives from the same narrator is such a unique idea! A steady guiding hand for the right clients in the first half, and then just a tiny bit venomous with the bad eggs in the second. What a pleasure this was to read! Thanks for sharing!

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Aeris Walker
21:59 Jul 18, 2022

Hi Avery! “tiny bit venomous” —love how you described that. I so appreciate you reading and am glad you received it exactly the way it was intended. :)

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Sheri Dusseault
21:39 Jul 17, 2022

So very well done! How original and poignant.

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Aeris Walker
21:54 Jul 18, 2022

Thank you so much, Sheri :)

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Amanda Lieser
04:13 Jul 16, 2022

Hello! Of course I could repeat some of the things that the other commenters have said that I loved, too: the addition of the reviews, the two different characters, and the way you used 2nd person point of view. Although I loved all of those details, my favorite part was that your main character remained neither the antagonist nor the protagonist. It reminded me of Anna Delvey, a con artist in New York City because she wasn’t someone that could be put into one box. It was clear that your main character simply gave back the energy she receive...

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Aeris Walker
12:12 Jul 17, 2022

Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for you comment! That’s what I wanted for this character, someone who is complex and deeply discerning of the human condition—someone you don’t quite know what to think of them. I so appreciate you reading and sharing your kind words. :)

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Tommy Goround
04:14 Jul 15, 2022

Congratulations. I love your avatar.

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Diana Glenn
15:21 Jul 14, 2022

Absolutely amazing! Your use of parallelism and imagery are an inspiration!

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Aeris Walker
12:06 Aug 01, 2022

Thank you, Diana! :)

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