by Jim Stitzel
“Choose the lamp on the left, see visions of the future. Choose the one on the right, taste of true madness for a spell.” The crone’s words burned in the girl’s mind like festering sores. She held her hands over the lamps but felt no heat from them, despite the frigid temperature of the small chamber. No shadows, nothing to indicate they even sat before her, despite what her eyes told her.
What kind of choice was this? Madness versus prophecy? The choice itself was madness.
Still, she plunged her hand into the light of the left-hand lamp and felt warmth from it at last as it gripped her arm and invaded her body. But then it grew bitterly cold as it wrenched her mind with visions of an impossibly terrible future. She screamed with the pain and terror of it and knew that this was far worse.
Her last thought before she succumbed to the black madness was, I should have chosen the other lamp.
Shuffling steps. A hunched figure in the shadows. The girl was half-curled in a fetal position, eyes wide and unseeing. She could have been dead, but for the tears streaming from her eyes and the trembling lower lip.
“Your problem, girl, is that you have no imagination, no ability to see the consequences of your choices. So very typical. Arrogance of youth.”
She spat and the rancid spittle slid down the girl’s cheek as the crone shuffled back into the shadows.
[Jim Stitzel is a data analyst who fancies himself an amateur SF&F author. He blogs about real-life things at Writer's Blog and has just recently started sharing his practice fiction in a more public place.]