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.

               Brother Crada opened the door for her immediately upon her knocking, thought it was still well before first gong.  He clasped his hands to her.  “Did you sleep well with the Ancestors’ favor, Mother Nevia?”

               “As well as can be expected,” Nevia replied, keeping her foul mood from entering her voice, for she liked Brother Crada, despite his obsequiousness.  Many of the others were more willing to forgo referring to her with a holy title, but had not his endearing temperament.  “No time for breakfast just yet, I’m afraid,” she decided.  “I need to speak with the Eldest Sibling at once.”

               “Of course, Mother.”  Brother Crada turned and began making his way slowly up the stairs outside of Nevia’s cell.  “I’ll have your breakfast awaiting you when you have finished, after first gong.”

               Nevia patted him on the arm as she followed him up the stairs.  “Thank you, Brother Crada.  You’ve been a good friend.”  She barely noticed how she already referred to him as having passed, and he seemed not to notice the significance, either.  How could he?  He had no knowledge of the future, or of what Nevia had seen.  Only she carried that curse.

               There was no short path between Nevia’s cell and the Eldest Sibling’s; she followed Brother Crada up several flights of tight, winding, dreary stairs, through a half-dozen drafty stone corridors where only strips of blood cloth long dried, and thick strips of rusty-studded leather served as decorations.  When they reached the Eldest Sibling’s chamber, they paused, and Brother Crada went ahead to announce Nevia.  He returned in a moment, closing the wooden door softly behind him.

               “The Eldest Sibling is ready for you,” he announced, clasping his hands to her again.  “I must go now for first gong, but I will have your breakfast ready for you when you are finished.”

               “Thank you, Crada,” Nevia clasped back to him.  When he was gone away around the corner, Nevia pushed on the Eldest Sibling’s door, allowing herself inside the little cell.

               The Eldest Sibling’s cell was no different from any other in the Home, containing a bare, plain bed with rough-spun blankets, and a simple wooden writing desk.  She rose to greet Nevia as she entered, though Nevia sought to wave her down – the Eldest Sibling was even older than she was.  “Mother.  Brother Crada indicated you felt some urgency this morning.”

               “Yes…” though the details of her dream were wont to fade as the day progressed, returning to her only as the images to which they were tied occurred in truth, the sense of them did not, and the Eldest Sibling’s words brought the full horror of what she had seen back into her mind so that she nearly feel as she dropped herself in a chair.  “Merciful Parents,” she whispered, “Its done, it’s all gone…”

               At Nevia’s distress, the Eldest Sibling hastened to offer her a blanket, and a steaming mug that smelled of clove and sandalwood.  The Eldest Sibling, or at least the woman who had held the title for as long as Never had resided at the Home, had always had the most interesting teas – it was one of the few indulgences she allowed herself.  The warm, pungent liquid helped a little, enough that Nevia could keep more than a tear or two from falling when the Eldest Sibling asked her to share her foreknowledge.

               “It was terrible,” Neva whispered.  She worried that her voice would sound too numb, that what she conveyed would not carry enough weight of fear.  “So much death.  Terror, pain…”

               The Eldest Sibling leant forward, her fingers laced around her own mug of tea.  She had not been the one to discover Nevia and her foresight, but she had been the once to convince her that joining the Home would be of mutual benefit.  Her, and another day of horror…Nevia shook herself as the Eldest Sibling spoke again.  “Where were you?” she asked.

               Swallowing against her tears, Nevia struggled to put herself back into her dream, though it felt like trying to intentionally thrust her hand into a blazing furnace.  It defied reason to probe to closely, to thrust herself inside of, that knot of darkness in her mind.  Bigger even than the other one she had already borne for so long.  “I was…was here,” she recalled, “at the Home.  And…by the coast?  No, that’s not right.  There was such a terrible wind, though.  And screaming.  Or maybe the screaming was the wind…the stones felt pain.  It all felt so surreal…and then nothing.  There was nothing.  I saw all of the siblings, dead in their chambers.  I – “ she choked and cut off as the Eldest Sibling patted her knee comfortingly.  Yet how could anyone give comfort against the end of the world?

               “Did you see what happened?  How it occurred?”  The Eldest Sibling’s voice was gentle, but also insistent, probing at that dark knot inside of Nevia.  Though Nevia could do nothing herself to stop or change what she foresaw, sometimes others could find wisdom in her dreams.  It was why the Eldest Sibling had brought her to the Home.

               The details of the dreams, though, faded quickly; holding onto their images and events was like trying to cup hot soup in her clasped hands, leaving behind only the feelings, the burns, the sense of the dream.  For several long, silent moments she sought to find answers, to remember the dream and communicate it to the Eldest Sibling, but there was nothing there to be found save terror.  “I don’t remember anymore.  I’m sorry.”  Nevia felt defeat join the fear gnawing upon her mind and soul.

               “That’s alright,” The Eldest Sibling soothed.  How could she try to calm Nevia at a time like this?  “How did you feel?”

               “Terrified.  So frightened, overwhelmed.  Helpless.”  This was an easy question, though it seemed to reinforce those emotions in Nevia to speak them aloud, as if doing so made what she had foreseen somehow more real.  But as she spoke, she felt a chill steal over her, one that no tea could dispel.  “Oh, Parents, it’s starting, it’s starting.  I was here…”

               To her credit, the Eldest Sibling sought only to comfort Nevia, not reassure her, for there was no reassurance that could be offered, not after what Nevia had dreamt.  When Nevia could speak again, the Eldest Sibling took her trembling hands.  “Is there anything else you can tell me?  Anything at all?”

               Nevia searched her mind again, and squeezed her eyes shut, as if that would squeeze some hidden memory from the black knot in her mind.  “Nothing, I’m sorry.”  It seemed wrong for them to be sitting there, so wrong to be calmly discussing what he so terrified her, calmly discussing the end of the world.

               She received a thin smile from her efforts, a grandmother’s smile.  It made Nevia wonder if she would have been a grandmother by now, had things gone differently…best not to think about that.  “Thank you for your wisdom, Mother Nevia.”  The Eldest Sibling took a sip of her tea.  “If you remember anything else, please let me know immediately.  Ancestors’ Wisdom bless you, Mother.”

               It was a dismissal.  “And you, Eldest Sibling.”  Nevia rose, clasped hands to the Eldest Sibling, and let herself out of the cell.  Bother Crada awaited her outside, having returned from first gong.  In the quiet sanctuary of the Eldest Sibling’s cell, Nevia had heard neither the gongs nor the prayers.  He immediately clasped hands to her, taking in her pale and shaking countenance.  “Are you not well, Mother?” he inquired, as if it weren’t obvious.

               Returning his clasped hands only by force of habit after so many years amongst the siblings, Nevia shook her head.  “Breakfast, Bother Crada.  Maybe that will help.”  As if simple food could help ward off the end of the world.

               This brought a worry-tinged smile to Brother Crada’s round face.  “Of course, Mother,” he said, gesturing her back down the corridor towards her own cell.  “I think you will be pleased with what I have prepared for you.  Why, it might nearly be good enough to actually make one glad to get out of bed each morning.”

               Just his attitude alleviated some of Nevia’s numbness.  “Brother Crada, if you dreamt the dreams with which I am cursed some nights, cold, plain gruel would be enough an excuse to get out of bed.”  She even managed to say it with a smile, as wrong as it seemed to force her lips into such a configuration on this day.

               At the door to Nevia’s cell, Brother Crada again opened the door for her, and let her inside, where her small writing table now bore a covered tray.  Brother Crada leaned to the side while Mother Nevia settled herself in the flat, wooden stool, before removing the cover to reveal his creation.

               “Salted hominy grits with pork butter, and spices cacao tea,” he announced, “with fresh pressed loaf.”  He gestured to each in turn in their crude earthen vessels, as if he were the finest of chefs presenting an emperor and his attendants with their sumptuous meals, and favored Nevia with a bright smile.  “I’m afraid that my own breakfast will not match yours, not nearly.”

               That made Nevia feel a bit guilty about the feast he had prepared for her; though she was ostensibly more holy than the siblings, she was not obligated to follow the same strictures as they.  She had, at first, but that had not lasted long.  “Thank you, Brother Crada.”  Her guilt did not last long in the face of the warm, comforting food, and as Brother Crada had predicted she found that, although it couldn’t completely shake her very true sense of impending doom, it did at least lift the cloud a little.

               When she had finished the simple meal, though it was a cornucopia of flavors and a veritable feast by the standards of the Home, she nodded to Brother Crada, who collected the dishes again.  “Is there anything else you’ll be needing this morning, Mother?” he asked, always so eager to please and serve her.  If she had ever had a son, she would have hoped for him to be like Brother Crada…no, best not to think about that, it was too painful to go down that path of thoughts.

               Nevia gave him a fond smile.  “No, I think that you’ve already brought me everything I could need.”

               “Then I’ll be going,” Brother Crada said.  He clasped hands to her once more, still cheerful as if immune to Nevia’s own oppression, before taking up the tray.  “I believe Sister Valeen will be with you for midday gong,” he added, before pushing out the door, and closing it softly behind him.

               Nevia stared after him for a long moment, fighting down the irrational longing in her heart.  “Good bye, Brother Crada,” she whispered.  She thought perhaps she ought to have said more, to have said something to Crada himself for all of the good he had done for her, but it had not seemed quite right.  Yet she knew she would never see him again, though he could not realize that truth.

               Alone once more, the full horror of her foreknowledge crashed back upon her, imploding the bubble of peace she had inflated by dint of warm hominy grits, cacao tea, and pleasant company in companionable silence.  Though she sought to regulate her breathing, to control the fear and force it back into the black knot in her mind, to calm herself, she soon found herself huddled beneath her desk, wishing it were not so flimsy, with her knucles stuffed into her mouth as she rocked back and forth with her knees to her chest.  Such pain: surely there could be no greater pain that that of knowing a terrible future, and yet being unable to do anything even to ameliorate it.  It was happening all over again…

               She had not known the truth of her curse of foresight until her tenth birthday, when she had finally understood what she was dreaming and that it was not something to which everyone was subjected.  Mostly, she would foresee little things about the course of a day, and never more than a day or two in advance.  She knew sometimes how conversations would go before they happened, or that there would be visitors to the village.  Little things, innocuous enough, until the day she dreamt her own daughter’s death.  That whole day she had sought to keep the girl safe, but in the end it hadn’t mattered.  Her baby girl had still perished, just as she had foreseen.  Indeed, in a horrible way her own efforts to avert the future had brought it to pass.

               That was when Nevia had realized how truly her foresight was a curse, though others had before called it a blessing – they still insisted it was a blessing, at the Home, although the Eldest Sibling was careful not to confront that fact around Nevia.  She had fled from her village in horror at what she had allowed, perhaps even brought, to pass.  Eventually, she had been found by the siblings, and it was the Eldest Sibling who had persuaded her to come to seek sanctuary in the Home.  With the Eldest Sibling’s help, she had reduced the pain of her daughter’s death to a knot of blackness in her mind, like a small, black inferno that she dared not probe to closely lest it sear her soul all over again.

               The Eldest Sibling thought to use Nevia’s foresight for wisdom, calling her a Mother, a holy title, but Nevia cared little for that, and hated the title she had been given.  For her, the Home, and the Eldest Sibling’s interpretations of her dreams, was only a way to escape responsibility for the horrible knowledge she possessed.

               Not since that dream of her daughter’s death had she felt so desperate to avert the course of what she had dreamt.  Yet she knew that anything and everything she might attempt was futile.  Again and again she saw the day her daughter died, and she felt that horror mixed with the terror of her most recent dream, the dream of the end of the world.  They were of different flavors but of the same kind.  Crawling out from beneath her writing desk, Nevia fought the numb sense enough to convince her trembling fingers to unfold her thin, rough blankets again onto the bed.  That way, she could hide beneath them and shut out the end of the world.

               After some little while, she lost sense of the tedious passage of time, and perhaps even fell asleep, for she awoke with a start upon haring a knock on her cell’s door; the noon gong could be heard tolling in the distant tower.  Immediately, she harangued herself for wasting so much of the last day of her existence in slumber, but then thought that at least in sleep she was spared the waxing misery of awareness.  Dreams, at least true dreams, rarely came to her in naps.

               The knocking upon the door repeated itself, and Nevia groaned from beneath the scratchy blankets.  That was surely Sister Valeen without, but Nevia uncharitably wished for her to leave.  It seemed a terribly cruel thing, to subject herself to the company of those who could not understand either the danger they were in or the helpless horror Nevia felt, and she disliked Sister Valeen even under normal circumstances.

               There came a third knock upon the door.  “Mother Nevia?  Are you unwell?”

               Silence stretched again, and then Nevia flung off the blanket.  Sister Valeen was disgustingly punctilious and conscientious in her duties, and would certainly not be put off from her pestering until Nevia satisfied her obligations.  Once she had adequately composed herself, Nevia sat again at her writing desk, and faced the cell’s door.  “Yes, yes.  Come in, Sister.”

               At once that door opened, and Sister Valeen bustled in bearing a tray containing a small, earthen cup of tepid water, and a small, dense loaf of flatbread.  This was not surprising; Sister Valeen did not approve of Mother Nevia’s non-adherence to the siblings’ strictures, nor of the people who enabled those tendencies in her, and did not shirk from imposing her own ascetism upon others.

               “Is there anything else you need, Mother?” Sister Valeen asked.  She probably wanted to check the question off of her task list for the day.  “Otherwise, I shall be about my other duties.”  Of course, Nevia was nothing but another duty to her, and a disreputable one at that, not worthy of her holy title.  Well, Nevia wasn’t especially fond of her own holy title, either.

               Normally, Nevia would have suppressed her sight, but this was the last day of everything.  It seemed rather silly to care, so she gave a long, suffering sigh.  “No, Sister Valeen.  Be off with you.”  She even offered a dismissive wave, as if she were some manner of emperor’s bureaucrat.

               A glimmer of affront passed over Valeen’s face before being replaced with her usual stern glare, and she bowed stiffly.  “As you will, Mother.”  Without another word, she turned on her heal and stalked from the cell, closing the door in a most enunciated fashion upon her departure.  Nevia could not help a satisfied smirk.

               Her satisfaction did not last even as long as her meager meal, however, quickly replaced by chagrin.  It seemed now horribly petty of her to be taking satisfaction from such mean-spirited discourse, particularly when the world was soon to end.  She sighed this time in frustration, and found that the dry, dense loaf tasted even worse in her mouth than usual.  So quickly, her sense of impending doom and torturous helplessness returned.  She left the rest of her meal uneaten on its tray, and crawled back into bed to hide, as if a blanket could protect her from the end of the world, or from her culpability in its ending.

               She did not hide there long before another knock sounded upon her door, upon which she stuck forth her head from beneath the blankets and was halfway to her feet when she froze, her eyes darting between the door and the writing desk with her half-eaten meal still sitting upon it.  She had the immediate, profound sense that this very scene had been in her dream, and she sat down heavily on the bed, feeling numb, and was not at all surprised by the Eldest Sibling’s entrance.

               “I hope that I’m not disturbing you,” the Eldest Sibling began, and then hesitated.  “Are you alright?  You look very pale.”

               Nevia shook her head.  “I knew you would come.  I know just how this conversation is going to go.”  She met the Eldest Sibling’s gaze, trembling.  “You’re here to suggest I go to consult with the Great-Grandparent, aren’t you?  It’s all coming back to me now, the very words that I’m saying…oh, dear Parents, it’s all true it’s all going to come true…”

               If the Eldest Sibling was at all take aback or shaken by this reception, she gave no sign of it, remarkably maintaining her customary aplomb.  “That is why I am here, honored Mother.  If you truly saw something so terrible, then only the Great-Grandparent may have the wisdom to guide you.”

               “It doesn’t matter how wise they might be,” Nevia moaned.  “You’ve told me yourself, just as I’ve experienced…” she choked, but continued, “that there is no way to change the future that we see in the dreams.  That such is not the purpose of foreknowledge.”

               “So it is,” the Eldest Sibling agreed.  “But you were blessed with this gift for a reason.  At least consider seeking the Great-Grandparent’s wisdom on this matter.”

               “It won’t matter.  It’s a curse, not a gift,” Nevia muttered, but she sighed at the Eldest Sibling’s pained look.  “Very well.  If you really think it to be of use, I will seek out the Great-Grandparent.”  She was resigned, now, she had seen this too in her dream, and know that she would face the journey before the day was done.  Before the world was done.

               The Eldest Sibling nodded.  “Thank you, Mother Nevia.  That is well.”  She rose, and made towards the door, but hesitated before going out.  “I’m sorry that I have no greater wisdom to offer you, myself.”  Then she closed the door behind her, and Nevia was again alone in her cell.

               Nevia sat there in silence for several long moments, perched on the edge of her bed, and trembling from the glimpse back into her ream through which she had suffered.  The postnoon gong tolling shook her free, and she heaved herself to her feet, feeling suddenly very old.  There was a pair of sturdy shoes in the small chest at the foot of her bed, and a warmer garment; she donned both of these things, took up a sturdy walking stick, and set out from her cell.

               Few were those who were permitted to visit the Great-Grandparent, who lived alone at the top of the mountain on whose plateau the Home had been built centuries in the past.  The top of that mountain overlooked the Home, so that the Great-Grandparent, the living embodiment of the Ancestors, could look down on the Home and its siblings, faithfully serving the Parents.  In truth, Nevia could remember no instance of someone visiting the Great-Grandparent, not even the Eldest Sibling, to the point that no one now knew even if the Great-Grandparent was a Great-Grandmother or a Great-Grandfather.  Yet the path, while cold and steep, was no hard, even for Nevia, and she soon made her way to the mountain’s peak.

               There she found a little hut, built up in terraces so that it looked as if three huts were stacked atop each other, even with roofs between them.  Low stone walls and dry, brown, straggly vines marked where a garden had once fought to produce amidst the harsh, mountain elements, and there was a little well that seemed to be frozen solid.  Shivering with the cold and the wind, for a snowstorm had blow up as she arrived, Nevia approached the hut.  The walls were splintery wood, and though they showed signs of having once been painted in bright colors, they were now grey and bare.

               “Great-Grandparent?”  Nevia knocked loudly upon the door to be head over the increasingly noisome wind.  “I come at the behest of the Eldest Sibling to seek your wisdom.”  She hesitated.  “It’s about something I have dreamt, something that is to come.”

               No answer came filtering forth from the hut, so after a few moments of further shivering Nevia knocked again.  This time, she felt the door give way slightly beneath her cloth-covered knuckles, and when there was again no response, she very gingerly let herself into the Great-Grandparent’s hut, shutting out the howling snowstorm behind her.

               “Great-Grandparent?” she inquired again, and again received no response.  Her voice sounded oddly muffled, like the stuffy old room in which she found herself was actively absorbing sounds, or perhaps it was just the sudden silence after the shrieks of the blizzard outside.

               It was most certainly an old room, the kind of room that spoke of its age in plain language as did the wrinkles, thin white hair, and liver spots of old men and women.  It was hung thickly with furs, which were also spread underfoot, but these were dry and cracked with age, and thick with dust.  A few stray beams of weak sunlight that got through the raging snow outside flitted in through small holes in the roof that had not been repaired, and there was a thin veneer of snow beneath these punctures.  The air was so still and cold that Nevia felt like an intruder to a place locked outside of time, like she dared not so much as breath lest she disturb this place.  It felt like a shrine, which indeed it was, in a way.

               “Great-Grandparent?” she asked again, although she winced at the way her own voice cut through and shredded the holy stillness of history and ancestors.  Still, there was no response.

               Reluctantly, feeling like the worst kind of invader, Nevia stepped from the entryway into the hut’s main room.  There was a little hearth, but it was cold, and it looked that no fire had burned in it for some time, and there was a rocking chair set before it.  Rounding the room, Nevia wasn’t certain whether she more expected to find the Great-Grandparent deaf, or dead, but she found neither.  Instead, she found a thick book sitting upon the rocking chair’s wicker seat, its leather cover only slightly less dusty than the rest of the hut’s contents.

               Though she felt now that she knew what she would find, by instinct or some secret impulse, and not through any supernatural curse of foreknowledge Nevia turned her steps to the little bedroom of to the side of the main room with its empty hearth and wicker rocking chair.  Pushing through the curtain of hanging beads, which clacked and clicked too loudly in the stillness, she beheld the Great-Grandparent, now nothing more than a withered husk of what had once been a man, lying peaceful in the bed with an amulet clutched in his hands.  There was no way of knowing how long he may have been dead, for his body had been preserved by the cold, but it had surely been a very long time.

               Easing out of that terrible bedroom and its forever slumbering occupant, Nevia fled from the place that had become a shrine in so many terrible ways, pausing only long enough to take up the book that lay upon the rocking chair.  Through the snow she ran, stumbling and falling only to pick herself up again and keep running, running, running away from that horrible hut and its holy, dead resident, back to the Home.

               Siblings saw her coming and noted the manic rictus of her face, but Nevia held the heavy tome she had collected from the hut before her like talisman, feeling like she was being towed along by the book itself, rather than by any mechanism of her own musculature; she did not stop until she came to the Eldest Sibling’s cell, by which time a small crowd had gathered in concerned pursuit.  Breath thundering in her breast in time with the thundering of her thoughts and louder than the screeching of the snowstorm at the top of the mountain, Nevia pounded upon the Eldest Sibling’s door, which sprang open in an instant for her.  Nevia stumbled in with a gasp, and collapsed onto the floor.

               “Mother Nevia?” the Eldest Sibling exclaimed.  “What had happened?  Are you alright?”

               Nevia tried to answer, but choked, still gasping for breath.  Instead, she held forth the book by way of reply.  The Eldest Sibling took it from her, lifting it before her face, and blew off the dest and snow of time.  Then she set it upon her writing desk, paused, and opened the cover.

               That scene, of the Eldest Sibling breaking open the Great-Grandparent’s book as irrevocably as one might break open a nut or an egg, overturning the first page with one thin, delicate finger, exploded in Nevia’s mind, and she tried to speak, tried to move, tried to do anything to stop what she now knew with terrible certainty was to happened, and it was all her fault, all her fault again, but it was too later, it was always too late.

               Licking her lips, oblivious to the knowledge careening in Nevia’s horrified mind, the Eldest Sibling took in the first page, and began to read aloud.  “’If you are reading this, then you know that I am dead.  I ask first that you do not mourn me, for death is a sweet release for which I had been longing for very many years, since I was placed in this mountain prison.  I ask second that you heed the words I have here written, for hey are the words of one who has seen the future.  Yet because I know the future, I cannot alter it, even in death.  Despite this, I must try.  I must commit these words to paper, that there be some slight chance of averting catastrophe.  The Home must be disbanded, immediately.  If it does not, the fate that awaits it will be too horrible to put into words.  See, I have come to understand the curse of foreknowledge, and it comes not from our ancestors, but from out descendants.  Burn the Home, destroy it.  Lest you continue to the end, where your own worship will incite the destruction I have foreseen.  Heed me, I say.  Though I know I cannot change what is to come, I must try, for doing otherwise would surely drive me insane.  Do not worship, I exhort you!  Do not revere the Ancestors, I implore you.  But it is too late.  I know it will be too late, it is always too late.  Yet if there is even a chance, even a slight possibility, that the end may yet be averted, end your Home.  You must.  So I go to my death, glad only that I will not live to see the destruction I have dreamt a thousand times.’”

               There was a numbness Nevia knew too well in the Eldest Sibling’s hands as she turned from the book.  “Ancestors help us,” she whispered.  “This…we have brought about out own destruction.  I – I must tell the others, tell them it is over.  The faith…” her voice broke, but she recovered, “the faith must end.”

               She barely seemed to notice Nevia as she fled from her own cell.  Nevia could hear the Eldest Sibling running with all the speed her old body could summon, sharing the Great-Grandparent’s exhortation that the faith must end.  Siting there in the Eldest Sibling’s cell, listening to the cries and wails rising up from an entire Home consigned to death, and staring at the book on the writing desk, Nevia finally recalled the rest of her dream, and she understood too well.  It was going to end.  Everything was going to end, and it was because of what she had seen, what the Great-Grandparent had seen, because they had both tried to avert the future and by doing so brought that very future to pass…

               With a peculiar calm, Nevia managed to find her feelt, and she returned to her own cell in a daze.  Already, she felt she could smell the smoke and the Home began to burn, hear the wailing as the siblings began to perish.  A part of her railed within her, screaming for her to go out, that she might still avert some portion of the disaster she had foreseen and incited if only she could convince the siblings to listen to her.  Yet she knew, knew, with the same terrible certainty that she had known the Great-Grandparent’s truth when the Eldest Sibling had opened the book and first begun to read, that it was futile.  Her daughter was dying, and it was all her fault; she could see her face in every shout that arose from outside the cell.

               She locked the door against the terrors outside, and looked about her little cell.  There was no escape from the Home, from the truth, from her culpability in this disaster, in the end of the world.  Except…perhaps.  She couldn’t make it through the end, seeing and knowing what would happen and unable to avert the events or change it, knowing she had helped to bring it about, knowing that she had killed her own daughter…

               There was a rope about her hips, what passed in the Home amongst the siblings as a belt.  Going to the high, barred window, Nevia waited a moment, looking out as the flames curled in the snowfall, hot in the cold, and then she never dreamt again.

Thank you for reading Lloyd Earickson’s short story, Nevia’s Curse, an IGC Publishing original story. If you enjoyed the story, please consider leaving a comment or review in the discussion below the story. Be sure to follow for updates, more information, and other freely available stories.

Copyright 2021, IGC Publishing

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