Is She The One?
by Sharon Jarvis
"Is she the One?"
Queen Moranna leaned over her son's left shoulder and peered at the computer screen. The question was asked coolly because, after many months of failed candidates, her expectations were lowered. Still, a hand wearing the royal seal gripped his arm.
Prince Darius watched the screen with mixed feelings as well. His mind was on the last parliamentary meeting, where concerns about the latest drone attacks by their enemy, King Arridian, were hotly debated. Fortunately, their computerized artillery, abetted by psychic long-distance viewing, managed to destroy most of the drones. But rumor had it that Arridian’s programmers were close to perfecting the next generation of artificial intelligence in drone warfare. If their kingdom could not find the One, eventually they would lose the war.
They watched as a door to the special chamber opened and a servant ushered the candidate inside. Darius could not see the woman’s full face because she wore a hooded cloak. But clearly her clothes had seen better days: the cloak was patched, the hem of her skirt ragged.
Darius winced. Her poverty was in stark contrast to the opulence of the royal castle.
"I thought you said she was a renowned soothsayer?" Darius turned to his mother. "How good could she be? She's not very prosperous looking. Do they pay her with turnips instead of money?"
The queen laughed bitterly. "My spies found her in a very poor southern province where, for all I know, turnips are a better currency than ours."
Because of the war, many had been reduced to bartering. Still, if King Arridian prevailed, their currency would be worthless as would be their lives.
“They say she is reputed to be one of the best card readers in the area, with an accuracy rate of over ninety per cent."
Darius snorted. "Forgive me for giving her the exalted status of a soothsayer when she is just a fortune teller."
"I don't care what she is," the queen said icily, "as long as she turns out to be the One." She turned to leave. "I can't bear more failures; don't tell me anything unless she passes the test."
After his mother left, Darius rolled up his sleeves as he watched the woman look around the nearly empty chamber. The room had no windows and contained exactly one piece of furniture: a single chair facing the far wall.
There had been long debates on what kind of chair to use. Too comfortable a seat and a candidate might fall asleep. Too hard a seat and the woman would not relax enough. It had long been known that the key to piercing the veil rested on not actively searching for it. No machine could do what sensitives, mediums, and mages could accomplish, nor could the manifestation of psychic powers be forced. The veil only appeared when a mind was focused on something else—or not focused at all.
There were decorations on the far wall--assorted paintings and shelves with various items. Camera eyes were hidden around the room and in the ornate picture frames. The pastoral paintings and beautiful objects were meant to soothe the candidate and put her into the appropriate mood.
The woman stood for a while and then pulled on the door handle--only to discover it was locked. Finally she approached the far wall and her full face came into closer view as she pulled back her hood. A flood of emotions jolted Darius—some his, some hers.
In the beginning, women were chosen if they fit prophetic descriptions of the One. But as time passed without finding her, the search expanded to include females of all sizes and ages. This young woman was not beautiful and her hair was cut as short as a boy's. But with her high cheek bones and dark sloe eyes, Darius thought her decidedly handsome, even striking.
“Thank the Gods.” The words slipped out before he could stop himself.
Thank the Gods that she was neither ugly nor wrinkled. Thank the Gods she was well past puberty. The thought of having to make love to an old crone or a child was completely unacceptable, but he was expected to mate with the One. Only the combination of male and female powers could pierce the veil. And once pierced, they could pass through to the other side, where unlimited riches might be unearthed, where fearsome monsters lay in wait, and where advanced technologies had been harnessed. The other side, from whence his family originally fled, leaving behind an entire world that could change the future.
The woman briefly stared at the paintings and then closely examined the items displayed on shelves. Darius wondered if she was thinking of stealing them since just one of those things would buy her a week’s food. Interest showed on her face, but after a while she went back to the chair and sat down. Time passed, but the servant did not return. The woman occasionally shifted in the chair and sometimes turned to look at the closed door. Finally she put one arm on the chair, cradled her head in her right hand, and stared at the far wall.
Darius did the same. He sat slumped, arms crossed, and stared at the screen though half-closed eyes. Almost an hour had passed. But it was not possible to know how long nor under what circumstances any candidate might notice the room was different. He had no choice but to go through the test with every candidate, to share the experience and to compare when--if she was the One--each of them might sense the veil.
They both sat still, nearly nodding off. Darius allowed himself to drift into a pleasant state of serenity, idly wondering what it would be like to make love to this attractive young woman; the computer screen lost its sharpness, the picture turned fuzzy.
Suddenly the woman raised her head and stood up. Shocked, Darius leaned into the screen, dark hair falling over his forehead. He watched as she stared into space, her brows furrowed. Then her expression was slowly replaced by a look of wonder. Tentatively she reached out with her right hand, but she did not move.
He could see the white flakes now, as surely she did. Her face was luminous with awe and joy, as she watched it snow inside the small room. The snow fell continuously but never reached the floor, because it wasn't snowing in this world but in the next dimension.
His chair overturned as Darius abruptly stood. Excitedly he punched the communications device on his wrist, to tell his mother that the fortune teller had passed the test, and then he ran out of the room.
She was the One.
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