Fixing the Weave
On my birthday I like to post a piece of short fiction that I’ve written in the past year. Click through the link if you wish to read this year’s story.
Fixing the Weave
The sound of crunching metal and shattering glass was a long time in coming. The green suburban was in front of Amber, aimed at her. The steering wheel of her Geo Metro felt suddenly slick in her grip. To the right of the narrow road was a stone wall. To the left a deep ditch ran between the road and the pasture. Amber swerved for the ditch, but so did the other driver.
“That’s not supposed to happen.” Lachesis muttered putting her finger on the screen, bubbling the weave of Amber’s impending collision. The bubbled threads gave Lachesis a short time in which she could shift and correct the forming tangle. Her finger traced the small fray in reality back to where a crossing train should have delayed Amber’s journey by five minutes. The train was later than it should have been. Tracing out from the train, Lachesis could see other strained threads; the people whose lives were incrementally altered by the shift in the train schedule. She dropped to the control layer of the program, once again glad to have computers rather than the old yarn and skein method. There it was. A fate worker in fulfillment had put through an order for a five minute delay on the train.
Lachesis swiveled in her chair and strode from the room. Out in the time stream the collision was still occurring with aching slowness. Amber would die unless Lachesis made it right.
“Drive safely.” Gary had said with a lopsided smile. Amber loved his smile. The words were a compression of many meanings, much simpler to say than “I love you and I want you to be safe while you’re gone so that you can come back.” Now Amber wished she’d answered the implied message rather than tossing off a flippant “I always do.” But the morning had been filled with minor irritations and she’d been running late. No time for tenderness. No time to go back for a kiss and hug.
The grill of the suburban filled the world. Amber locked eyes with the man driving it. What words had this other man failed to speak to his loved ones this morning?
“I’m sorry” the words filled Amber’s thoughts as the collision arrived.
Lachesis stopped to collect Atropos before going to the fate floor. As they entered, a dozen workers looked up from their screens in their half-height cubicles.
“Are you sure you need me?” Atropos spoke sotto voce absently fingering the scissors at her waist. “I make them nervous. Work schedules will be shot for the rest of the day.”
“Can’t be helped. I hate it when they try to be clever.” Lachesis looked across the cubicles. “There. Station 23.” She met the eyes of the skinny little man seated under the large 23. His adam’s apple bobbed in his throat.
The world filled with the screech of metal and the tinkle of falling glass. Amber was flung backward by the explosive inflation of her airbag. It was like the tumbling ride at the carnival where she and Gary had gone on a date, all jerks and vector changes. Gary. Amber’s eyes squeezed closed even tighter and something walloped her midsection, stealing her breath.
“I just wanted to have time to pick up my dry cleaning before catching the train home from work.” whined Kevin, the skinny man with the adam’s apple. He twisted in his hard chair across the desk from Lachesis. They were back in her office. Atropos stood looking out the window.
Lachesis pinched the bridge of her nose. “You know the rules. You signed your agreement when you were hired. While you’re out there” Lachesis gestured to the wall screen which showed events in the time stream. “Make all the decisions and changes you want. That is your right as a mortal possessed of agency. Change the world. Make it better. Make it worse. I don’t care. But while you’re here” Lachesis stabbed her finger downward at the floor. “You change nothing. Your job is to witness and process the fates of those in the time stream. You send tangles to me and terminations to Atropos. You haven’t the knowledge to weave changes without making tangles.”
Kevin hunched and muttered. “It was only five minutes. What harm could it do?”
Atropos winced. Lachesis gave Kevin a level stare, then punched a command into the control board embedded in her desk. Images on the wall screen scrambled and resolved upon an image of Kevin dozing off during the orientation meeting where butterflies and consequences had been explained. Lachesis sighed. She punched record on her voice memo
“Track down the fool who approved this idiot for hire.” Her finger left the button with an audible snick.
Atropos half turned from the window. “Can we get this over with? You always wind these things out for ever and I have people waiting on me.”
Lachesis scowled at her sister. “He must understand. It is part of the balancing weave. You know that.”
“I don’t like to see them twist. That’s your job. Please be quick.” Atropos turned back to the window.
Lachesis turned back to Kevin “Since you apparently missed your orientation, let me show you more specifically. She punched in another command.
The wall screen resolved on a tumbling Geo Metro rolling down a bank in exquisitely slow motion. A smashed up suburban slid nose-first down the same embankment. Lachesis zoomed the image inward to show Amber, arms flung wide, hair flying. The glass cuts on her face had not yet begun to bleed, but the steering column was already beginning to crush her pelvis.
Silence lay heavy in the room. Kevin’s eyes darted from Lachesis to the car crash in progress and back again. He swallowed.
It was Atropos who finally spoke, though she did not turn from the window. “She will die there. As events are spun, I must cut her thread.”
Lachesis stared at Kevin and stated flatly “Her thread was measured to be much longer than this, but a train was running late.”
“I’m sorry! It never caused trouble before. I had no idea five minutes could affect someone important.”
“Important?” Lachesis said “She is ordinary. Just a girl who would live out her life known to only a few. What matters is the strength of the weave. Your little tangle weakened it.” Lachesis glanced toward Atropos and her scissors.
“I’ll fix it!” Kevin lunged toward the control board. In the blink of an eye Atropos whirled and her dry hand came down on top of his, preventing him from reaching the board. “Don’t you think you have done enough?”
“You know the rules.” Lachesis rasped. “Or you should. Never sign anything unless you’ve read it first. Her car already tumbles into the ditch, that is now part of the weave, but there is a way to salvage her thread. The pattern demands a death. It should not be hers.”
Atropos removed her hand from Kevin’s and pulled out her scissors.
Amber opened her eyes to bright whiteness. She was muzzily aware that her body hurt, but the pain was muffled, like objects hidden under a blanket. She blinked and a fuzzy form became focused.
“Gary.” Amber rasped.
“I’m here.” Gary leaned forward and grabbed her hand. His other hand wiped away tears.
Amber wet her lips. “I love you.”
Gary squeezed her hand. “I love you too.”
Amber nodded. “What happened?”
“You were in an accident. They rushed you here to the hospital and it looked like you weren’t going to make it. You were pretty smashed up. If it hadn’t been for that organ donor who had an aneurism at his office almost the same minute you crashed…” Gary licked his lips. “Anyway you’re going to be fine.”
“The other driver?”
“He’s fine too. Everyone is okay.”
Amber nodded and drifted back to unconsciousness.
(Check the comments on onecobble.com to see my author’s notes on the story.)
Mirrored from onecobble.com.