Fiction Friday: “Nadia: A Peaceful Protest”

Image courtesy of Mind's Eye Website

Based on the Mind’s Eye webseries, this Fiction Friday we present the cast fiction short story  “Nadia: A Peaceful Protest”. This story sets the scene for some of the series to be found here. We will bring the rest of this story to you in the coming weeks.


A Peaceful Protest – Part 1

Nadia pulled her faded shawl tighter around her shoulders, and took another sip from the tin cup in her hands. The tea was bitter, but pleasantly hot in the cool autumn night. The wagon smelled faintly of damp horse and candle smoke, and sounds of laughter and drunken singing floated in the distance. The sounds of camp were familiar to Nadia, though she much preferred the sounds of travel – the rhythmic clip-clop of the trotting horses and the clattering of pots and pans that her father sold and mended. Still, camp was always a welcomed break; a time of business and rest for the adults, and a time of freedom for the children.

Nadia enjoyed watching her mother Zuzana at work. The woman’s shoulders were hunched in concentration, her scarf slipping down her black hair. She had one hand resting on a beat-up deck of cards, and the other hand held a tin cup similar to Nadia’s and her lips moved silently as her eyes searched for something at the bottom of the cup. Across the flat-topped chest that they used as a table sat a middle-aged man with a round, friendly face whose gaze was fixed on Zuzana. He wore a ragged gray shirt, but unlike many others in his state, he looked – and smelled – clean. In the flickering candle light, Nadia could see a mole under the man’s left eye shaped like a tear. Odd, she thought. That Fate should give him that mark on such a cheerful face.

Zuzana finally looked up from the teacup. Even though Nadia couldn’t see her mother’s eyes from her corner, she knew they were intense, piercing, and unsettling, like the eyes of a wild animal that was focused on its prey. The man’s jovial expression momentarily faltered. “Your path is laid,” Zuzana told him, her voice smooth and gentle, unlike her stare. “I see you holding a key. When you touch it, your rags turn into fine silk, and it leads you to a golden door adorned with rubies and diamonds. But when you open that door, it’s dark inside. Dark and dreary. And to enter, you must blend the tear on your cheek with the blood of innocents.”

The man smiled faintly. Nadia had a feeling he hadn’t heard much of anything past the silks and diamonds. She sighed quietly. Some people took her mother’s readings as gospel, others took them as a joke. But more often than not, they took them as fairy tales, they were allowed to come true provided everyone lived happily ever after. This man seemed to be no different.

“Now you must heed my words,” Zuzana told the man firmly. “You have the power to resist that temptation. Do not touch that key, and your soul will remain golden, and your heart as clear as rubies.”

The man shrugged. “The rubies in my heart cannot feed my children,” he replied with a light-hearted chuckle. Dropping a couple of copper coins onto the chest beside his teacup, he saluted Zuzana politely and left the wagon.

Nadia wished her own heart could remain that light. She never had the faintest doubt that her mother possessed the gift of Sight, and her faith now told her that this prophecy had been a grave one.

“Fool,” her mother voiced Nadia’s thoughts. “A kind soul, but a fool nevertheless.”

Nadia climbed off the pile of bedding she was perched on, and took the man’s seat across from her mother. “Do you think he’ll take your advice?” she asked, genuinely curious.

Zuzana shook her head. “His path is laid,” she repeated. “He will yield to the temptation.”

They sat silently for a while, looking out the curtain framing wagon’s door and out into the night. In

the distance, the campfire was flickering merrily. Nadia thought about the stories the travellers exchanged around the fire every night, and she had a sudden desire to hear a story herself. A story of truth, one she could believe. Slowly, she set her own teacup on the chest that was scratched with years of weather and travel. “Will you read mine, Dya?”

Zuzana smiled. “Somehow I knew you were going to say that.”

“I’m eleven,” Nadia argued hesitantly. “I’m almost a woman now, right? Do you suppose I’m old enough to have my Fate set?”

Her mother reached for the tin cup. “I would think yes. There is only one way to find out, isn’t there?”

Nadia clasped her hands together and waited patiently, and without a hint of anxiety. Do I really want to know my future? The answer, inside her, was clear. If the future can be read like a book, then yes, I would like to know what mine is about, but not necessarily how the story ends.

The sound of the cup touching the table-chest snapped Nadia out of her thoughts. Then, for the first time in her life, her mother’s penetrating stare met her own.

“Odd,” she said quietly. “Your cup – it can be read in so many ways. It’s almost as if the tea leaves are trying to talk to me, in many different voices, telling different stories…”

“Does that mean my Fate is not set yet?” Nadia asked.

“Yes and no,” Zuzana replied. “I’m not sure. I think it means your path will never be laid unless you lay it yourself. You, unlike that fool of a man, will always have the strength and wisdom to make the decisions that change the direction of your Fate.”

She paused. “That is a gift far greater than you think.”

Nadia remained silent and returned her mother’s gaze. Was Zuzana just speaking words of consolation because Nadia was too young to have her fortune written in her cup? Were these empty words to amuse a child?

Her mother, once again, interrupted her thoughts. “Do you believe me?”

“Yes, Dya.” Nadia swallowed down her doubts and nodded, feeling ashamed for questioning her mother’s honesty, even for a moment.

Zuzana’s solemn expression softened. “Good,” she said gently. “Believe also in yourself. You are still young. You are neither strong enough nor fast enough to protect yourself, nor are you powerful in your words and ways yet. Let your faith be your shield.”

Then she took a breath, and added in a whisper. “Let it also be your weapon, should you ever need one.”

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