short stories · Writing Samples

Fortune Teller

The fairground is nearly empty when you arrive. You pass tired children, drooped in their parents’ arms and insisting (between yawns) that they’re not tired and they can do just five more minutes. You step over candyfloss wrappers and coffee cups. It smells like burnt popcorn and roasted almonds. Some of the rides have shut down already, you can hear the rest slowing down around you.

The neon lights on the carnival rides and the tented roofs of game stalls and food stands show you the way, like a convoy of fireflies. They lead you to the door of the Fortune Teller’s tent.

The door is, of course, already open and he has stood to greet you.

“I need-” you begin.

“I know,” he nods and the tent door swings shut, silently. He puts a gentle hand on either side of your face. He tells you this will hurt, but not for long and then he reaches in to the back of your throat, down in to your chest and scoops out your heart.

It is excruciating. But not for long.

When he puts it down on the table you feel so much lighter. You sit across from him and you both stare at your heavy heart on the table.

It does not look the way that you thought it would. You were prepared for something heart-shaped, or at worst some blood and guts, but what sits in front of you is more like a large, matted bundle of string. It’s like when you pull a clump of hair from a shower drain, except every strand is a different colour. You had no idea there were so many colours.

The Fortune Teller tuts. “My, my,” he says. “I haven’t seen a heart in this much of a tangle for a while. You’ve tied yourself in knots.”

He spends some time untangling them and shows you every one. Each heart string is tied to a different person and once they’ve all been untangled you can see them all separately. Your friends, your family, acquaintances, colleagues- people you’d known your whole life and people you’d only met for a day. The strings are different thicknesses, different lengths.

You see your whole life laid out in front of you in perfect clarity, through the stories of these threads. Now that everything is no longer muddled you can see the people who love you. You can see the ones who don’t. And you can see how significant each thread is.

“Now,” the Fortune Teller smiles a small smile. “Now that you can see it all, you have a choice. You can piece yourself back together. Or you can restart.”


It sounds so easy. Like a reboot. A chance to do better the next time round. To fix all the things that went wrong now, but you know that’s not true. You know that restarting means a new life. New people. New ways to mess up. You know that it means the end of this life. Goodbyes. Tears. And funeral costs.

You look back up at the Fortune Teller. He smiles because he already knew what you would say and then you start to weave your life back together.

Via Daily Prompt: Restart

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