For once, I actually managed to write a true short story; this particular piece comes in under six thousand words (barely), unlike most of the Blood Magic “short” stories, which hover around ten thousand words. It was a quick write for me, and will probably be a quick read for you. There aren’t even any section breaks, and all of the action takes place in a single day. It’s very much a read in one sitting kind of piece.
This story started because I needed something to write that wasn’t at all connected to anything else I was already writing. Something that would be short, self-contained, and relatively simple. I had a notebook with me, but not a computer, so I couldn’t reference any of my notes or world-building materials to work on something like Blood Magic, and I wanted something that I could reasonably finish in just a few days. As I tend to do, I took a couple of ideas that had been rattling around in my head recently, and stuck them all together.
The first idea was the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies, and how it often seems that prophecies are misinterpreted, and tend to make themselves come true – the more you either try to fulfill a prophecy, or to keep it from coming true, or even if you do nothing at all, it will somehow end up making the prophecy come true. I wanted to play around with what it would be like to have prophetic abilities – to be able to see the future – and not be able to do anything at all to affect that future. The natural extreme of this would be predicting the end of the world, and then being unable to do anything to prevent it.
Second into the story, though somewhat related, was the idea of déjà vu, and of the science of dreams. Have you ever had one of those dreams that feels completely real when it’s happening, and is simply you going about the day you were expecting to have when you went to sleep that night? A dream so vivid and realistic that when you wake up you have to check the calendar to make sure that you didn’t actually live that day? And then, as you go through the day, you might encounter conversations that you would swear you had, word for word, in your dream. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve had those kind of dreams occasionally, and I wanted to play around with that concept in story form. I’m convinced that these sorts of dreams are really the product of our minds compiling the vast amounts of sensory information we take in without being consciously aware of it, although I haven’t done any significant neurological studies to examine that hypothesis.
I’d also been thinking a lot about the idea of ancestor worship, and wanted to incorporate that into a story. All of that came together, and became…something surprisingly dark. Generally, I don’t write or read very much dark fiction. Blood Magic, despite the name, is not really dark, although it has some darker elements here and there. This story, though, which I’m calling Nevia’s Curse, is really quite dark. I knew going in that I wanted to write about the day leading up to the end of the world, but that doesn’t have to be dark (just look at Good Omens). This, though, is dark, and a prime example of how something can be brooding and kind of depressing without being gory and violent or having monsters jump out at you. So consider yourself warned.
On a more upbeat note, I think this is the first time that I’ve written a complete story out by hand in a notebook, and then copied it onto the computer. I don’t intend to do this for all stories, but it was an interesting exercise, and had the convenient side effect of forcing me to do a thorough revising pass as I was copying from my notebook onto my Word document. That gave me a chance to catch continuity errors, tighten up the narrative, improve the word choice, and straighten out the sentence structures. Since I have a bad habit of not doing as much in the way of revisions as I ought to, that’s a good thing, and this story is better because of it. However, it’s not really different from being written out on paper first, so I don’t think the medium made as much of a different for me as it might for other authors.
If I were smart, I would have posted this last week, so that it didn’t risk eclipsing the upcoming release of this month’s Blood Magic episode, Fallen Angel, but I was not smart, and this is where the story fit into my posting schedule. Now, I am pleased to present to you the original short story Nevia’s Curse:
Most people, when they must thrash and moan in the throes of some nightmare, have at least the relief of awakening, but if Nevia had never awoken again, she thought she might have found it preferable. Sometimes, she would dream of the day that was to come, and it would feel so real as to be indistinguishable from reality. Indeed, she would only learn it to be a dream when her morning attendant confirmed that the day had not yet passed. Unlike when other people dreamt, her dreams were true, for she had been given the curse of foresight. She knew, therefore, that today was the day on which the world would end, and there was no awakening from the nightmare to escape, for the nightmare would become real. They always became real, for she could never change the outcomes she foresaw; she could only live, as the events she had foreseen inevitably came to pass.
Her knowledge of the end of the world was not some vague sense of unease or intuition of future horrors, but rather certain, resolute foreknowledge, as definite as the structure of the Home in which she dwelt, built upon a plateau of a tall mountain. After more than forty years, she knew enough to know which of her dream were true dreams, dreams of foretelling, and she knew, therefore, even before her attendant entered the room, that what she had seen in the night was true and as inevitable as the rising and setting of the sun. Except that the rising of the sun would not be inevitable, for tomorrow would not come.
Still, there was nothing to be gained by continuing to lie abed with her eyes closed against reality. She knew what her role would be, and if she did not get herself up then something would come along and contrive to rouse her. Even on this day when the world would end, she could not escape the fate or change the paths of her foreknowledge. Perhaps especially on this day.
So Nevia threw the blankets off of her pallet, shivering in the cold, damp, mountain air before she could pull on a plain dress only a little nicer than what the siblings wore. Then she shook out her thin mattress, and folded her blankets neatly at the foot of the bed. Only once the cell was in its proper order did she pull her hair into some semblance of a bun, and knock once upon the wooden door to be allowed out, though it had been many years since she had come to the Home and she only rarely tried to act out what she saw in her dreams while she was yet asleep. She was as ready as she could be to go out for the day. The last day.
Click here to read the rest of Nevia’s Curse