Microfiction: Augury


In the darkness that would never lighten, she let the memories run behind her eyes, of sunny meadows, her mother’s face, the bright hangings on the walls of her father’s house. Not all the lamps of the world could lighten her darkness now, for she was the seer, and to see she had first to be blinded.

She was gifted, they had told her father. She would make a fine offering to the temple. She remembered her father’s face as he weighed up the options: an advantageous marriage, or to have the temple in his debt. A daughter was useful only for what she would bring in exchange. She remembered the cupid smile that twisted his lips when he made up his mind.

Her mother had cried, but it made no difference. They had put out her eyes all the same. She had been small then, a child too tiny to put up a fight. But she knew how to defend herself now. In these years of darkness, she had learned many things.

“I know you’re there,” she said. “I might be blind, but you can’t hide from me. You have a boon to ask, and I can see the future. Will the ship bring back untold wealth, or will it founder and take your investment with it?”

She sensed the tensing of his muscles, the rage that he should be asking a favour of a woman. But the fear was not of her and what she could do, but for his fortune. She smiled inwardly and with her foot stirred the luck, good or bad, in the heap of peacock feathers.

“I see the ship, the storm that strikes as it enters the straits. I see the crew furl the sails, but too late. The ship is blown onto the rocks and is wrecked. The cargo is lost, your investment, all you possessed, at the bottom of the sea with all hands— even the child who stowed away on his first adventure, against his father’s express wishes—your beloved son, father.”

She savoured the sharp pang of horror, and the darkness lifted just a little.



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

43 thoughts on “Microfiction: Augury”

  1. You are in fine fettle, my dear. This is exceptional – a perfect little nugget of satisfaction in dolling out bitterness to the greedy. A lesson in how to use what we have and how acceptance of the way things are can bring enormous (and to the recipient) unpalatable value.

    1. I’m glad you got to the heart of it 🙂 I chose this painting because of its oddity and found I was rather stumped as to the story behind it. Once I started to write the background, the denouement took shape nicely 🙂

      1. Yes, this makes me think of all the ways women are maimed (physically) so that they will be of value to men. She is strong, but I hope she is able to find something more than bitter vengeance.

      2. I’d like to think so. There were so few ways women could express themselves though, I doubt she’d ever be able to stand up and make something good of her life. The history of women is like that, as you say, in the shadows, only remembered when they can be of use. And we wonder why the world is the mess it is.

    1. Thanks Joy 🙂 No, it doesn’t undo the wrong, and we find it unacceptable to rejoice over the death of a child and a brother, but other cultures, other times…Maybe she was able to get some bitter satisfaction and a sense of wrong righted out of it.

      1. I’m not sure there’s anything that’s so unacceptable to feel or think that we couldn’t forgive a character (or friend) for doing so, if we knew enough about the background — or at least we could understand it. But yes, I can imagine that any satisfaction she might feel would be bitter.

      1. Me too. I really think it’s my favorite genre. It’s the perfect combination of fact/knowledge/learning with ‘what if’ and I prefer it over any other style. (When it’s done well – as this is).

      2. Exactly. Wow. I think you have summed up what I too feel about historical fiction. IN WHICH CASE I must INSIST you watch Outlander! Yes you may find things about it/her annoying but I am CERTAIN you will fall for it the way I did – it’s EXACTLY about that. (or if you cannot bear to watch TV try the books though I cannot vouch for them I’m certain they must have merit though they are very long)

      3. I don’t just not watch TV, I don’t actually possess one. Never have, incredible as that may seem. I find that sitting still and watching anything is very hard to do now.

      4. I haven’t read any of them, she says, hanging her head in shame. Husband started the one about the French Revolution (it’s his historical period) and enjoyed it to begin with, but about halfway through he stopped. Said he didn’t believe in her characters. He already knew Danton etc and didn’t think her representation fitted what he knew of them.

      1. Whenever I read historical fiction, I’m almost invariably struck by how awful it was to be born female. Nothing good ever happened to them by design. How many of them longed to turn the tables, I don’t know.

      2. Yes, the more I read about the past, both fiction and non-fiction, the happier I am to have been born in this age. I don’t think I would have lasted long, to be honest.
        My husband seems to feel the same way – we were standing in Barcelona Cathedral a while back and I made a joke about the Spanish Inquisition and we both laughed, then he looked at me and quite seriously said ‘They would have burned you’. Which I actually took as a bit of a compliment 😀

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