Break the Wheel that Would Break You

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Amal and I try to talk on Mondays, and for the last two weeks we’ve been drawing cards to see if they inspire fiction or poetry. We usually give ourselves 10 minutes or less to write. One week ago, we used Negocios Infernales cards. Yesterday, we used Dixit cards.

But last week’s card inspired this quick fiction story-start.

I doubt I’ll go further with it; it’s a bit heavily Sarah Monette-influenced, which pleased me in one way, but not in another. Only Monette can do Monette well, and I shan’t be satisfied with a starry-eyed imitation.

For what it’s worth, I did come up with the character’s name last night as I was falling asleep. Her mother named her “Devils Apace,” but she goes by “Pace.” (See? A bit too Sarah Monette. But let’s celebrate that here and now! I love the inspiration that keeps giving.)

From the card I drew “Break the Wheel that Would Break You” (as depicted above), I drew inspiration mainly from the suit, which is very… wet.

But there’s also the wheel, which calls to mind the Wheel of Fortune, or the idea that one is fated to a certain outcome. Which calls to mind Oracles.

Enter Pace, an Oracle.

DEVILS APACE: A Character Monologue

Oracles these days are as numerous as raindrops–and more common too, as the Wheel has been under drought for a good six years now. Truth to tell, I’d’ve sacrificed a dozen oracles if it meant bringing the rain, and when I became one myself, I was no less inclined to think so.

But there. Dead oracles do not mean an end to the drought. It just means dead oracles. And while I’m not exactly what you’d call enamored of life, at least I’m not chasing my own kenosis, if you get my drift.

Anyway, the way you find out you’ve become an oracle–“attained phenomenal occult powers for discerning probable patterns of the near future” as the pundits say–is this: you do something ordinary, like you do every day–light a candle, or finish a cup of tea or coffee, or glance up at the sky as a flock of birds passes overhead–and suddenly, it’s like you’re standing between two continents colliding, or, like, directly in the path of a glacier as it’s about to level a mountain (and you ain’t, nor never were, a mountain), or, like, a thunderbolt cracks down from this cursed blue sky that’s never been anything but a jolly, cloudless blue, and you just know. You know the future.

Now, I’m a cardsharp. A con and a cheat. Cards are my livelihood, with a little side hustle as a sleight-of-hand magician that gets me through dry spells. Well, not the literal dry spell, but you know what I mean.

So I’m eating alone in a cafe the other day, and I’m just passing the time, you know, a game of Single Gal On Hen’s Night–best solitaire game ever invented, and as I lay the cards before me, I foresaw it.

An end to the drought.

But not before the world as we know it ends first.

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