This fortune-teller is one of the few people who truly understand the nature of time. It is not—as poets suggest—a branching path with many winding options, but a stream where each second flows into the next inescapably. She can see the course of the river but cannot change it.
The kettle’s scream builds and builds, but before it reaches a fever pitch, a man comes in. His shoulder length hair is plastered against his scalp with sweat and there’s a wild staring look in his eyes. A carving knife gleams silver in his shaking hands.
“I’ve been expecting you,” said the fortune-teller. An old trade joke.
The man’s mouth contracts like he’s trying to eat the words he’s about to speak before he can say them. The fortune-teller knows what he’s going to say, knows why he doesn’t want to say it, and knows that he’s going to say it anyway. And so does he.
“Take it back!” exclaims the man, spittle flying from his mouth. “I don’t want to see it anymore.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, setting down the knitting. “I can’t. Don’t you think I’ve tried myself?”
The man starts pacing back and forth. “I can’t sleep no more. All I see is what happens. The Future. The Past. All of it. I’m going… I’m going to kill you, aren’t I?” Why did you do this to me?”
“I warned you,” she shrugged. “When you and your friends came in here last week, blind drunk, and begged me to tell you the secret. I did warn you.”
“You could have just not!”
“And so can you.”
“I’m going to be sorry about this, you know.”
And she holds still as he slides the knife into her neck. The blade feels cold inside; a flood of red pours out of her as he pulls back. Quiet. She notices the kettle has finished boiling, and motions for him to check on it. Awkwardly, he pats her shoulder a couple of times before escaping into the back. She doesn’t hold it against him; not really, besides, he’s set to die in a car crash before the year is out.
Then, for one glorious moment, before the river swells up and swallows her- time shatters. Its pieces falling around her in an infinite fractal of possibility. The man comes back in, holding a warm mug, to see that she’s smiling.