Another Genesis

Surprise me...

At the beginning of this story, I was a child—younger than I am now and smaller, and there at the beginning I had a story told to me, a story about my future.


“Little girl,” the old woman called to me, kneeling in the sand, a bowl of water in her lap. “I have another eye in another time, and I see something.”


I looked down at the old woman, at her headscarf tied at a wild angle over the right side of her face, so only her left eye stared up at me. My mother had walked ahead of me down the aisles of vendors, and I had made the mistake of dragging my feet right past the fortune teller.


“Come sit here, little girl. Let me show you.”


My mother had told me to watch out for the seers and magicians that sat on the sides of the road during market days. “They’ll tell you half the story, show you half the trick, and then once they’ve got you hooked they’ll ask for your money,” she had told me. “Just look the other way.”


I took a step back from the old woman. “I have to—” I started, gesturing in the direction of the fruit stands and my hidden mother. But when I glanced down again, the old woman was smiling, and below her, in the bowl of water, something glinted up at me. Her teeth maybe, a reflection of the sun, some bright thing. I forgot to look the other way.


“Sit, girl. You have to see this.”


I lowered myself down until I was squatting in the sand beside her, reluctant to come any closer, but expectant all the same.


“Tell me your name.”


My mother had warned me of this as well, although it felt like a different warning. “Never tell them what we call you. A name is an indispensable thing. If you tell it to someone like that, they will know how to turn your head, which is only a breath away from knowing how to turn your heart.”


This didn’t make much sense to me, but I tried to heed it anyway. No one had taught me how to lie, but it was something that seemed to get learned regardless. “They call me T,” I said, looking the old woman in the eye.


She didn’t blink, didn’t hesitate a second. “They may call you T, but I won’t. No matter.” She moved the bowl and placed it in the sand between us, where we could both see inside. At the bottom of the water was a pile of dark seeds.


“Do you know what this does, little one?”


I shook my head without looking up. The seeds were in a perfect mound, undisturbed by the water or the motion of being moved.


“This is a window to the other side.”


“Other side of what?” I asked. When I looked up, the old woman was staring at me with her one eye, her dark eyebrow trembling.


“Someday when you look like me, you’ll look back and see this little girl as the other side of your life.”


I suppressed a grimace at the thought of someday being as old as this gnarled woman.


“We’re going to watch the water and see what it does,” the fortune teller said, returning her gaze to the bowl.


I looked down into the water, and there, under the surface, the seeds began to dance.


They spun into letters, too fast for me to string together, and tiny scenes and images blending one into the next. I didn’t take my eyes from the bowl until the seeds stopped moving, a few long minutes later. When they settled into their pile again, I looked up at the fortune teller and she grinned, gleeful, like we were in on a joke.


“Uhh...” I said. I remembered the outline of a willow tree, a fish, two figures holding hands, the word ‘avoid’ (or was it ‘void’?) sandwiched between a string of other letters. “I don’t think I caught much of that.” I felt embarrassed to admit that to the old woman, wanted to act unmoved instead, but I was curious. I couldn’t help myself.


“Oh, my dear. You are lucky-lucky!” The old woman picked up the bowl in her hands and swirled the water gently. “You must have quite some life ahead of you, to get the story of stories in the bowl.”


“What was it? What does it mean?” I glanced over towards the market and the people milling about, looking for my mother’s blue hat.


“Relax, child. Your mother’s buying groceries. She’s not thinking of you.”


I frowned, but the fortune teller just grinned again.


“The future comes to us in stories we already know, so we’ll be able to recognize it. Do you know what I mean?”


“Uhh…” I said again.


“This story starts with the beginning of the world, and it ends with the end of another world, a smaller world, the world of two people in relationship.”


I crinkled my nose. “I don’t even have a boyfriend.”


The woman cackled with genuine pleasure. I tried not to feel offended. She leaned in towards me, bringing her voice down low. “This isn’t that kind of story. Not in any way.”




“Any two people can be in relationship. Not romantic, necessarily. You and your mother have a relationship. You and… your brother, perhaps?”


I narrowed my eyes. “Who says I have a brother?”


She shrugged, leaned back again, ran a coarse finger along the rim of the bowl. “I’ll put it in plain terms for you. You’re young and stubborn. You’re always going to feel young, and you’re never going to stop being stubborn. Whenever the big split comes, it’s going to feel like the end of the world, which means it’s going to be the end of the world. That’s how feelings work. Whoever it is, they will be as close as a brother to you—” she saw me open my mouth to protest again, and held up a finger to shush me. “As close as, I said. That means they will pull a lot of weight in your world. The people we’ve known since birth hold a mirror up to us, a mirror that reflects all the selves we’ve ever been, all the past we’ve ever known. To cut off the mirror is to cut off ourselves, in some way.”


I stared at the old woman’s eye, its iris so dark that it looked like the pupil had widened to its outermost edge, like we were sitting in a very dark room rather than out on the side of the road in the sunshine. I still didn’t understand. I wanted her to give me something concrete to hold, but everything she said sounded like clouds. “Okay, but who is it? Can’t you tell me anything else?”


“It’s going to be your choice. You’re going to leave what you know behind, because if you stayed you would have to chop your tongue off and be silent.”


“Chop my tongue off?”


The old woman’s eyes caught on something just over my shoulder and her expression changed to something almost abashed. She laced her fingers together and smiled, “Yes, of course. Now that’s all I can tell you today, I think. Someone has remembered you!” She looked over my shoulder again and I turned to see my mother walking towards us, as swiftly as she could with two bags of food in each hand.


“Are you going to ask me for money?” I said, turning back to the fortune teller.


She laughed, and one hand absently pulled at the edge of her headscarf. “The fortune is free, little one. You pay to know how to get there.”




“Go on!” The old woman shooed me as my mother’s shadow fell over the bowl of water.


“What do you think you’re doing?” my mother said as I stood up and brushed the sand off my shorts.


“Oh, it’s no trouble, ma’am,” the fortune teller said. “We were just talking.”


“Excuse me,” she said, dismissing the woman coldly, and circling a grocery-laden arm around my waist. We made our way back to the line of vendors, where my father stood examining tomatoes, and my brothers lingered behind him, nudging each other and laughing at me trailing next to our mother. I rolled my eyes at them and they just laughed, stealing me from my mother and hooking their arms through mine.


“Ooh, get your palms read?” my younger brother said.


“Get your horoscope? Your tea leaves?” My older brother jabbed me in the side.


“Eh, whatever,” I said. “At least it was free.”


“She didn’t beg for money? I want one!”


We all turned our heads as one, back to our parents, who were fitting the tomatoes into the top of one of the grocery bags. We snuck between the Guernsey’s apple stall and the Oak Farm cheeses and tripped our way back to the front of the market. There were a couple of magicians shuffling cards beside each other, an old man taking a nap against a chain link fence, and a vagabond playing a violin. But the fortune teller with her bowl of seeds was gone, only a faint shadow in the sand to show she had been there at all.





Sionnain Buckley is a writer and visual artist based in Boston. Her fiction and other work have appeared or are slated to appear in Wigleaf, Winter Tangerine, Autostraddle, Strange Horizons, and others. She serves as a prose editor for 3Elements Review. When she isn't making up strange stories, she is consuming queer media and popcorn in equal measure.





Copyright belongs to the creator. .


Surprise me...
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