?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
15 July 2012 @ 11:21 pm
The Real LJ Idol: "Doomsayer"  
Doomsayer
real lj idol | week 34, prompt 2 | 997 words
Auguries.

x-x-x-x-x

I could tell you I predicted the great flood or the plague of rats, but the fact is that anybody can make those claims after a thing has already happened. Who can prove otherwise?

There is no gain in boasting about such things and they do not matter, so I will not bother. It is not the larger fortellings that haunt me anyway, it is the torment of small, irreversible details. Many of those are simply too terrible to discuss.

The first time, when I was four, I did not even understand the implications of what I was saying. It all came to me in a blur of words and images: "Mistress Andrews will lose her baby."

I thought, as any child would, of things misplaced that are later found. I was shocked when my mother slapped me across the face, and still more confused a few days later when she eyed me fearfully and would not let me leave our home. We never spoke of it again.

The second time, I was six, and just beginning to join my cousins at school. Most of the children were from the village, and I knew them well, but there were a few students from across the river whom I had not met. One of them came up to me after afterwards, a boy my own age called Adam. "Do you like horses?" he asked. "We have a red one. Would you like to meet her?"

My head filled with pictures of a beautiful animal, impossibly large with a rich, glossy coat. I wanted very much to go and see her, but what I said instead was, "The hayrick is on fire!"

The boy ran off then, and was bitterly angry when next I saw him: "The whole pen burned down, and we nearly lost the house as well. Our lovely Rosewind ran off into the woods, and we have not seen her since. Why did you do it?"

I wondered the same thing myself. Had I caused that fire to happen? Why would I conjure such a wicked thing?

The other children thought Adam strange, and a few weeks later he stopped coming to school altogether. I decided that it had all been mere chance, until my mother and I happened to meet the Reverend Welton at the miller's shop later that year. He greeted me warmly, and clasped my hand. "Are you a good boy for your mother then, Robert?"

I glimpsed a cottage with an open door, a destroyed room with the Reverend himself lying bloodied on the floor. "Mind the wolves," I said, before I could think better of it.

The Reverend drew back his hands as if he had been stung. "Really, Mistress Penbrook!" he said. "That boy wants considerably more attention to prayer."

My mother turned scarlet, and curtsied for the Reverend. When we returned home, she beat me soundly. I was made to kneel until nightfall, praying for forgiveness, and when father returned from the fields she told him I had the very Devil inside me. He thrashed me again and sent me to bed without supper. I heard two of them talking for hours, no doubt deciding my fate.

The Reverend was attacked by robbers two nights hence, and very nearly died in the struggle. After that, I was sent to the city to live with the Rector Samuels and his wife, who had no children of their own.

I spent my days toiling in the churchyard and rectory, with mornings and evenings devoted to religious lessons and prayer. Try as I might, I continued to envision things before they happened. I sought better ways to warn people of impending danger, often resorting to vague conversations about the dangers of swift rivers or pestilence or fire. I prayed desperately for the Lord to spare His people, and begged that He not punish them for my sins. My misery was unending, and to what avail? Nothing I did had the slightest effect on the misfortunes I so wished to prevent.

As soon as I came of age, I left the city and its scores of good people with unhappy fates. I went to one of the sea villages, hoping to find employment as a fisherman. Once I had worked long enough to have a boat of my own, I spent long, quiet days out at sea surrounded by the blessed silence of the deep. Visitors were rare, and the village folk hardy. Still, I knew those people so well that any tragedy that befell them cut me deeper than anything had before.

Now I live here, in the rocky hills of the Western reach. I gather herbs and roots to sell at the monthly market beyond the far crossroads, and I keep a few sheep and chickens and a garden of my own. The living is lean, but my heart is lighter without the burden that comes of knowing what ill luck other people must soon experience.

You, my traveler, have journeyed here to find me, and for what purpose? If I tell you that a bridge will someday betray you, how will that help? Will you attempt to ford all streams in the future, only to be killed by a falling scaffold some twenty years hence?

Go away now, please, and trouble me no more with your questions. No one has ever been spared his destiny, no matter how strongly he schemed and bargained to avoid its wrath.

What was that you said? Do I mislead you now, when I have somehow managed to live this long without trouble of my own?

Trouble comes in many forms, be it banishment, or loneliness, or a history of disasters and hardships wished undone. I tell you truly now that I am as much victim of this curse as anyone. No, I have not foreseen the manner of my own death.

If I had, I would be doing everything possible to hasten that event.




Voting details are here. All voting is by blocks (some possibly members-only) but the groups are small, so not too many stories to read for any one group!

 
 
 
A Sentient Being: Fairyalien_infinity on July 16th, 2012 01:22 pm (UTC)
This was very well-done. I quite enjoyed reading it. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2012 07:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was interesting to try out an older time-setting for this, though the problem of seeing things you can't change and finally don't want to see could be any time, any place.
Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.n3m3sis42 on July 16th, 2012 03:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, I really loved this.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2012 07:11 pm (UTC)
Yay! That's really nice to hear! :)
cindytsuki_no_bara on July 16th, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
the very end is quite sad, altho understandably so. i like it, but ouch.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
There are so many things about precognition that seem more of a curse than a gift. Foreseeing unhappy things is terrible for the seer, because they can't help feeling somehow responsible even when they're not. And if their warnings can't change the outcome, if in fact it turns out that (whether they're seeing the literal truth or an abstraction) their vision always comes true in the end...it is an utterly useless ability that only serves to make its owner miserable.

You can choose to live apart from other people, simply to avoid that unwelcome "knowing", but if being a hermit is not your nature than that too is a punishment.

This is one of the areas that fascinates me, though, much like time travel. Can you influence what happens? Or do even your attempts at influence ultimately cause the thing to happen?

It's all over those Thursday Next books, where her father is in the Chronoguard. One of the early jokes is when he pops in from some future time, and randomly asks Thursday to tell her mother that mauve is an appalling color for the bedroom. Thursday passes that along, and her mother's response is, "Mauve! What an interesting idea!"

evade effect => cause effect

:D
Kristenpixiebelle on July 17th, 2012 03:15 am (UTC)
The voice in this piece was great, it just flowed and fit together perfectly. Loved the story too. Very well done :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2012 06:16 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! I was undecided at first about what 'period' to set this in, but in writing the beginning it seemed to want to settle itself more in the past than present.

It's not about the "size" of the predictions so much as it is about the pain they cause to the person who can't stop seeing them, and the simpler setting seemed to draw that point more clearly.
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2012 06:20 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm glad the creepiness came through, because if you think about having a 'gift' like this announce itself in things you wish you didn't know... that is disturbing.

It cost poor Robert his family and his future here, and gave him nothing in return except guilt and heartache. Somehow, that seems more true to me (given that he can't influence anything) than that those abilities would be anything he might welcome.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
Myrnamyrna_bird on July 17th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
I had a friend years ago who possessed some level of this type of 'gift.' I was excited when I learned of it but she intimated that she didn't always enjoy getting those feelings because sometimes they were sad or bad things and she always struggled whether she should tell or not.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
because sometimes they were sad or bad things and she always struggled whether she should tell or not.
That's the awful thing-- if you knew the outcome looked bad, you would probably feel compelled to say something. How could you not, as a fellow human being?

In this story, I think the process of learning that your warnings (here) don't help comes as a painful awakening. Now you have terrible knowledge, and your just as helpless as before. The difference is that the knowing makes you feel responsible, even when you know you aren't and can't do anything about it. :(
Myrnamyrna_bird on July 18th, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
And of course, having the foresight and knowledge but not having people believe, when you tried so hard to help...would have been so hard to bear too.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2012 06:12 am (UTC)
but not having people believe, when you tried so hard to help...

Oh yes, because then you would fault your ability to convince them, rather than think that perhaps they are fated not to listen.
alycewilson: Alice dark dooralycewilson on July 18th, 2012 09:14 pm (UTC)
I sought better ways to warn people of impending danger, often resorting to vague conversations about the dangers of swift rivers or pestilence or fire.

I like the dark humor in this passage, the idea that he tries to avoid the consequences of his predictions by being vague. It's doubtful many people would really want to know the full truth about their fates.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2012 06:11 am (UTC)
the idea that he tries to avoid the consequences of his predictions by being vague.
I think it's much as myrna_bird said above, too: if people don't listen to direct warnings (and then you get in trouble afterward-- banished from home!), you're kind of stuck hoping they'll take the hint from roundabout discussions. "I'm not saying anything specific, because that would be absurd, but people do drown terribly often, don't they? You'd think they'd be more careful..."

It's doubtful many people would really want to know the full truth about their fates.
And so often, they don't want to believe it. I don't think anyone wants to know that the end is the end, even if it's years away. The narrator unfortunately also sometimes sees futures in the abstract, too, like assuming wolves were involved in attacking the Reverend. He knew it was something bad, and dangerous, but his warning came within the context of his worldview as a child.

It seems as if that possibility of taint by abstraction is always there, too. Seers are so often regarded as being insane, and in stories they sometimes communicate their visions in ways that seem to make no sense.

There is so much about all these things that speaks of frustration, to go with the helplessness!
alycewilson: day dreamingalycewilson on July 19th, 2012 02:52 pm (UTC)
He knew it was something bad, and dangerous, but his warning came within the context of his worldview as a child.

And the result, which he saw, looked like someone who'd been attacked by wolves.

From what I understand, abstraction is a reality with many clairvoyants. It's therefore easy to second-guess their predictions. Having had a friend once warn me against a specific action because of a terrible dream she'd had, I would say I wasn't exactly receptive of her concern. In fact, I wished she'd kept her mouth shut! Of course, since I listened to her and presumably avoided the bad consequences, there's no "proof" she was correct.
lriG rorriM: eclipselrig_rorrim on July 19th, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
This was awesome and wonderful. I love it when someone takes something which sounds so amazing - the ability to see the future! wow! - and really examines it deeply. Precognition is definitely a curse and not a burden in this form! Not being believed is bad enough, but not being able to actually change anything? Brutal. Wonderful job!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 20th, 2012 02:59 am (UTC)
Not being believed is bad enough, but not being able to actually change anything? Brutal.
The knowing ahead of time would be hard enough, for events that are bad. You can imagine some of the scary or awful things a seer might be exposed to. But not being able to change anything somehow adds more weight, I think. You'd expect that the person might think, "Oh, well. Nothing I can do." But people being who they are, I think they'd be more likely to become convinced that there IS a way and they just haven't found it yet because they're stupid/lazy/unworthy. That "can't prove a negative" possibility can be just enough to make people torture themselves all the more.
java_fiendjava_fiend on July 19th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Wonderful piece. This was a fun and engaging read. I think most all of us at one point or another, would love to be able to see the future. But I think you show us, very well, why it's not always what it's cracked up to be. The flow of the piece is smooth and the voice very solid. Great work!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 20th, 2012 03:04 am (UTC)
I know that when I was younger, I always thought that would be a neat gift. But the assumption is that somehow you'll profit from it, or you'll be able to avoid anything negative you might see.

Without that... there might be no appeal in foresight at all, and potentially a lot of negatives. Funny how my mind went exactly there, instead of the other possibilities!

I'm glad you liked the voice and flow here. The voice is certainly different from ones I've used before, and it's always fun to try new styles. :)
whipchickwhipchick on July 19th, 2012 08:27 pm (UTC)
This is so neat - I like how simply you make it clear that precognition is not necessarily a gift. What this also raises for me is that any ability one can't control or determine is not that fun to have.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 20th, 2012 03:08 am (UTC)
What this also raises for me is that any ability one can't control or determine is not that fun to have.

I think that's true! If your ability were time-travel, would you be one of those cartoon icons of unluckiness who gets stomped on by a dinosaur, or manifests in mid-air where a future bridge will someday be? Or someone who can speak to the dead, only to find out that a lot of very evil or miserable dead people are the ones who really want to talk to you? Yikes.
beldarzfixonbeldarzfixon on July 19th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
Nice. If one lives in a world in which destiny is set, an ability like this would truly be a curse. Well done!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 20th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
It would!

I think of the occasional book or setting where "Fate" really means fate, and no amount of evasion prevents the final outcome. It can be a fascinating story opportunity, but for a bystander who can see that terrible fate but not prevent it? An utter burden.