The Seer

by on January 15th, 2011
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Ascher had devoted the last seven days to preparing for this meeting, but he still felt a jolt of fear surge through his stomach when the Seer’s assistant unlocked the door and beckoned him through. Maybe it was the lack of light in the room before him, or the strange smells and sounds that swept over him when the door slid open. But no matter how much he tried to focus on the simple sensory aspects of the situation, he couldn’t ignore the real reason for his fear: he was about to be Seen.

The Church confirmed the literally insightful talents of the Seer four years ago. They quickly moved her to the Holy City and gave her every protection possible before turning her services into a business venture. Anyone who could pay travel expenses and bring the food required for the week of cleansing was permitted to meet with the Seer. But the experience came with a major disclaimer: the Seer chose whom she Saw. Thousands were sent home with nothing but a wasted week during the first few months of the Seer’s fame. Eventually, the media developed a pattern from her decisions: she rarely Saw adults but almost always Saw children. The rich were often refused, and the poor often admitted. A few crafty souls attempted masquerade, but they were laughed away. One does not trick the Seer.

Though Ascher’s parents were not of the Faith, their social circle considered it a great honor if the Seer agreed to See their children. So, even though he was already fifteen, they bought him an AirShip ticket and sent him off with enough funds to buy the cleansing food. Once he got to the Holy City, he had no trouble making his purchases: traders of rice and greens were abundant around the Seer’s condominium, finding business there easily lucrative. He bought his week’s supply and approached the building.

It was relatively short compared to the columns and spires of the cathedrals throughout the rest of the city, but most of the structure was apparently underground. The four visible stories were regular and rectangular, and reflective black solar panels made the building look more imposing than religious. The only defining attribute was a small plaque above the door that said only “Seer.” She must have been involved in her home’s design, for leaders rarely coupled such sensation with such simplicity.

Ascher stepped up to the door, waiting as the hum of an invisible metal sensor scanned him and then allowed the door to slide up. The foyer was a welcoming sight: expansive, well-lit, and comfortably cool. A man sat behind the reception desk, talking amicably with a young girl, the only other person in the room. Ascher walked up and stood a little ways back from her, and the man finished his sentence and smiled at him around the girl. She turned to follow his gaze, and gave Ascher a nervous grin.

“Sorry, you can go ahead, I’ll just go down to my room now, we were just talking.” Leaving Ascher with his introduction still in his throat, she skittered off to one of the doors along the right side of the room. He caught a glimpse of a stairwell instead of the usual elevator before the door slid shut.

“Hi there. Can I get your information, please?” Ascher turned back to the receptionist, who had a smooth foreign accent and a warm smile. They must have chosen to welcome travelers with a person rather than the usual computer screen for the sake of all the children who came to visit the Seeer; the presence of a kind stranger was a balm to Ascher’s nerves. He recited his name, age, and home address, which the man entered into the system at his fingertips.

“Okay, Ascher. You’ll be in room 748, through door 7 over there.” He gestured to the left, and then scribbled 748 on a scrap of paper and handed it to Ascher. “I see you have food, but if you need any more, there will be a screen in your room you can use to order some. There will also be machines to cook your food; they’re very simple to use, no need to worry. You’ll have to remain there for the next seven days, after which time an attendant will come and take you to the Seer. There will be lots of things to do in there, so you don’t need to worry about getting bored.” The man smiled again. “The Seer is nothing to be afraid of.”

But seven days later, facing a mythical enigma, Ascher was afraid. The assistant smiled; he surely saw this many times a day. He didn’t attempt to hurry Ascher along, instead waiting patiently beside the open doorway. Ascher took a deep breath and stepped into the carpeted hallway.

The door shut behind him, and he was left with only the light from the candle in his hands. He had been taught to use it only minutes beforehand, as fire hadn’t been used for light in many years. And he could see why: the destructive potential in his hands was unsettling. The carpet must be fireproof, he thought, for the Seer met with children much younger than he was, and he was having trouble holding up the candle even though guards protected his hands.

The carpet muffled his bare footfalls, every step bringing him closer to the source of strange music and delicious smells. His stomach rolled, but he took a deep breath and ignored it. Suddenly, the walls around him opened up, and he faced a table in front of sheer curtains.

“You can leave your candle there; just stick it in one of the holes.” The female voice came from behind the curtains, and his heart pounded at the realization that could be the Seer. He swallowed and put his candle down, hesitant at what to do next. But the voice answered his unasked question just after he released his candle.

“Come around the curtain. There’s a light in the floor where you can sit.” He could see now that the curtain wasn’t at all wide, only a little more than the width of the small table. As he passed the edge, his dark-adjusted eyes spotted the small circle of light in the floor a few feet away from the curtain, and he tried to situate himself as perfectly on it as possible. A laugh startled him into stillness; it sounded very near.

“Let’s have the lights up for a moment for this one,” the Seer said. The room faded gently into relief: larger than he’d expected, with black walls. But what it contained was more astounding. On one side, a live chef produced the scents pervading the room in a miniature kitchen, and the other side served as a small amphitheater for live musicians playing ancient instruments. And not five feet in front of him sat the Seer. Her back was to him, and one arm was raised in front of her eyes. She wore a simple linen dress, and a strip of black cloth was wrapped around her head at eye level. Her skin was very pale, as was her blonde hair. While he was studying her, she began to shift around to face him, and his heart skipped again.

“All right, lower them again. But not all the way yet.” They obeyed her command, and she lowered her arm and faced Ascher. The black cloth indeed covered her eyes, but he could still tell that she was young, younger than he’d imagined. She couldn’t be more than thirty. She smiled widely at him.

“Tell me your name.” He shakily replied, and she nodded. “A good name, Ascher. Let me apologize for putting you through all this stress to meet with me. The food you ate clears up my vision of you, makes my job easier.” She addressed him as a friend, not as the international legend she was. He could already feel his stomach untwining a little, until he realized it was probably a strategy to get him to relax; the thought itself brought his nerves back. He was going to be Seen.

The Seer smiled again. She knew…it was real, everything he’d heard about. Could she hear his thoughts like he was speaking all of them? Could she read his heart like a book? She interrupted his worries.

“I know it’s weird. Let me explain. It’s only my eyes that are different, and since they’re covered, I can just see how your nerves are coming and going. Nothing else. My other senses are heightened, yes, but not supernaturally. I have this stuff, the food and the music, to keep them from going anywhere. I even have these to touch.” She held open her hands, which he hadn’t noticed were clenched. She held several small rocks, shining and jagged. “They come to me a little worn down so I don’t cut myself, but I usually smooth them out in just a day or two. I have to keep myself distracted so I don’t get lost to the spiritual realm. That’s what my eyes See. Want to see them?”

She grinned like a child, but her hand paused without removing her blindfold. “Can you bring us a snack, please? And put the lights back down,” she requested, her voice not unkind. The chef brought over two plates: plain bread for Ascher and a mixture of sauced meat and vegetables for the Seer. The lights lowered again as the Seer took a few bites, thanking her cook for the appealing dish. Trying to be grateful for the small change in diet, Ascher ate a bit of the bread but was interrupted by the Seer’s abrupt removal of the cloth around her eyes.

Even in the low light of the flickering candle behind the curtain, he could tell that her eyes were black. Their surface shone and broke the light into distracting colors. He couldn’t look away. He couldn’t breathe.

Not two seconds passed before the Seer gasped and wrenched her face away from him, dropping her rocks and covering her eyes with her hands. Ascher flinched and then immediately blurted, “Sorry!” He reached his hand out, but she shook her head.

“No, no, it’s okay, it’s…” She trailed off with a groan, before shouting something in a language Ascher didn’t recognize. A panel opened somewhere and the assistant appeared who had let Ascher in the room just a few minutes beforehand. He knelt beside the Seer and said something indistinct, but Ascher clearly heard the Seer’s reply:

“He’s the One.”

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