whipchick (whipchick) wrote,
whipchick
whipchick

For Want of a Horseshoe Nail

This is an intersection for LJIdol with kathrynrose, whose companion story may be read here.



__________________________________________________

He walked in looking like a toff. Waistcoat, school tie, hair carefully parted on one side and lightly pomaded. Not at all the usual sort.

“Welcome, Seeker,” I said, using my most mysterious tone of voice. I’ll solve the mystery for you—it’s a persistent bronchial infection. Moving from place to place in caravans, not enough sleep, setting up the tent on whatever wet, nasty bit of ground is next to the Ten In One, hence, otherworldly voice.

He looked around the tent, his eyes resting on my little tree, a fir Oswald had dug up for me and planted in a tin. I’d draped three strands of tinsel and cut a shiny paper star for the top. It was still pathetic. It still suited me.

“Is all this…well…you know, real?”

I’m never offended. It’s a fair question. “Sit before me and discover, friend. If I do not see the future you’ll have only spent sixpence and a few minutes. And if I do, you’ll have more than your time and money’s worth.”

He settled awkwardly onto the stool and I held out my hand. He dug in his pocket and ‘crossed my palm’—sixpences were real silver then. I took the cloth off my crystal and frowned into it.

It hit me like a drunkard’s fist. (There’s a reason I’ll never marry and it’s spelt D-A-D).

“The spirits are cloudy today…” I stalled for time, whilst trying to put the vision into acceptable words. To start, I didn’t know the names of half the things in my head (the ball is a prop, it’s just to focus on while looking in). The corners of his mouth turned up in amusement. He didn’t believe. Out of all the times I’d recited in a soothing monotone, You have a deep spirit that no-one around you sees, you have a special gift to share with those around you, all those earnestly nodding heads, this was the one that turned out genuine. And felt like a fake.

I looked him in the eye. “There’s a darkness in your future. All those tricksy paths you’ve negotiated—all the numbers—it’s matters of the heart that slay you.”

He smiled a half-smile. “You know about the numbers?”

Might as well be honest. “I see it but I don’t understand it. They’re coming in by some sort of wireless? You’ve a machine—no, you built a machine that understands the numbers coming in.”

The toff blanched and stood up so fast he toppled the stool. “That’s—it’s secret.”

I looked him in the eye. “And I’m real.”

He backed out of the tent, and evidently into someone, someone who shouted and threw a punch. I found out later from Oswald that it was a country farmer who’d had a few, but that moment I was too busy backing out of the other side of the tent, crystal ball wrapped in my skirt. Oswald found someone to take the toff to hospital, patch him up and send him off, and a few moments later I forgot his name was Alan Turing.

* * *

He walked in looking like a toff. Waistcoat, school tie, hair carefully parted on one side and lightly pomaded. Not at all the usual sort.

“Welcome, Seeker,” I said, using my most mysterious tone of voice. “Sit before me and discover, friend.” I remembered the school tie. I remembered the sixpence. I remembered to slow down and take a deeper breath before looking in.

The vision still came like a punch. “Stay by me, friend…I’m looking through some darkness…” Darkness, indeed—all I wanted to do was put my head between my knees and have a nice cuppa, plenty of sugar, plenty strong.

I groped for words. Strangely enough, my rote speech fit just fine. “You have a special gift to share with those around you, a gift that no-one sees…” With a few additions to the usual. “A gift that no-one is allowed to see, you’re not allowed to tell.”

His eyes widened a little.

“Someone is trying to stop you.”

He leaned in a bit. “Someone I know?”

“Someone no-one knows. He’s not here yet.”

He shook his head, puzzled. I took the plunge.

“Your name is Alan Turing. You do something with numbers—I’m sorry, I can see the machine, it’s black, it’s got lots of moving bits, but I’m not a scientist or a mathematician or whatever you are—you know the thing I mean, right?”

He nodded as I hurried on.

“You love your country. You love the flag. And you love…you love people…you love those you’re not supposed to love.”

Every bit of color drained from his face.

“Be more careful. Please. Not everyone is a friend. You trust too much.”

He stood up, toppling over the stool. “You’ve no right—no right at all!”

“No, I don’t.” I started to tell him I could help him, sometimes it’s only a little tweak, sometimes you get a second chance, but he was still staring in horror as he staggered back out of the tent, and I heard the guttural shouting of a drunk countryman and the canvas wall bowed inward as Alan Turing staggered into it.


* * *

“Welcome, Seeker.” Yep, school tie, waistcoat, pomade, all check, check, check. Sometimes it’s only a little tweak. Sometimes you get a third chance.

I didn’t bother looking into the ball. I remembered well enough, now I just had to phrase it right.

“You have a deep spirit no-one around you sees, you have a special gift to share with those around you.”

His amusement was back.

Catch him, Marlene, hook your fish, my mother said in my head. It’s all about the human touch.

Of course. “You are meant to meet a special someone. Someone who fills a part of your soul that’s empty, that you feel no-one will ever truly understand. Someone who solves you like a riddle…like a cryptograph.” I worried for an instant that was one too far, but he leaned in.

“Stay away from Oxford Street. Stay away from crowded public places for a few days. You need to make a space in your spirit for the right one to come to you.”

He nodded earnestly. I went through the pictures in my mind again, the toff before me meeting a bit of rough trade outside the Regal Cinema, the rough trade setting up to rob his house, Alan Turing in all innocence declaring his homosexuality to the police—the police, my God was he a brilliant fool!—jail, doctors, but doctors whose purpose was evil. And then Alan Turing stopped, and whatever Alan Turing would do or discover that was even greater than whatever he’d done to end the war, stopped with him.

“Keep to yourself,” I told him. And please, keep going. It must be important. Please don’t come back a fourth time.

I gave him the rest of his sixpence worth—travels to far places, a long life. I hoped. And then I looked at my little tree, the gold foil star shining so sadly and small, and said,

“It’s very muddy today, and you’ve nice shoes. Why don’t you leave out the back where it’s drier?”

Like a man in a dream, he passed out through the flap of the tent behind me. Like a woman in a dream I heard a countryman’s voice passing the front of the tent, and Oswald sensing a fight about to happen, and coming in, gently, to take the drunkard away.

I looked in my ball, then, for me, for dreadful curiosity. There were numbers, numbers that somehow knew and spoke themselves and made the world. The numbers served a flag, and the flag was ours, but changed.



_______________________________________________
whipchick's first teenage self-employment was reading tarot on the street. Most of it was gentle bullshit. Most of it.



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Tags: fiction, ljidol, magicians, playing with history
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