Magical Flash Fiction – The Fates by Sara Dobbie
In a medium sized house, the second worst one on an undesirable street, lives a small family. The mother never says what she means, instead stares blankly at a spot to the left of whomever is speaking to her. No one knows why. The daughter thinks it’s because she’s repressed, the son thinks it’s because of the father’s drinking. The grandmother says it comes from her uncle on her husband’s side. The neighbors whisper at the edges of property lines that the family is strange, cursed as far back as anyone can remember.
Hunched over a grimy crystal ball, a trio of crones glare at each other. The green one with skin like a toad is annoyed, she knew this would happen. With a voice like a blue jay the cobalt one squawks a sharp retort. “It doesn’t matter, they’re just mortals! We’ve been torturing them for eons, why stop now?”
The pink one, poised like a lawn ornament, is the only one who cares, the only one losing her graceful figure because she binges on butter tarts to distract herself from a millennia of guilt.
“Roll the dice once more,” she begs. “A pair of snake eyes could break the curse.”
“No, no.” the green one mutters. “Atropos, cut the strings!”
The sister grows up to be an alcoholic like her dad and gets tangled up with an unemployed drug dealer. The brother leaves town and marries a girl just like his mother. The father dies of liver disease. The mother never says what she thinks of all this, as usual, but suffers unimaginable nights alone. The coroner says the grandmother’s heart stopped because it was old, but the neighbors all say it’s because it was broken.
“I can’t do this anymore,” says the pink crone. No amount of sweets could assuage her conscience through another generation of this.
“Go on then,” croaks green Lachesis, “we don’t need an old sap like you around here.”
Atropos, perched on a stool in the corner, turns up her pointy nose. “You’ve gone soft, Clotho.”
Clotho realizes there isn’t really anywhere else she can go, she doesn’t have any other skills. She’s been doing this since the dawn of time, after all. Instead of leaving the hut to sulk in the swamp like she normally does, she tiptoes to her sewing basket and pockets a spool of indestructible spider silk. Strictly speaking this is against the rules, but she is tired of all this misery.
The brother and his wife give birth to a little girl and they move to the second best house on a fairly decent street. When the drug dealer cheats on the sister while she’s pregnant, she decides to leave town and live with her brother. Her child is also a girl, and the two baby cousins grow up together, shining like twin stars in the sky. The brother encourages his wife to speak her mind, and her fear melts away when she sees how gentle he is. The sister quits drinking and becomes a teacher. Everyone is content, happy even, especially the young cousins.
“Clotho, what did you do?” screeches Atropos, “my scissors are stuck!”
Clotho chuckles and chortles while Lachesis frantically re-measures the threads of the little girls’ lives with her slimy green hands.
“Not to worry,” Atropos chirps, “I may not be able to cut through bewitched strands, but I can certainly snip all the others!” With a few deft movements she completes her morbid task, and Clotho heads to the pantry for a pie.
“There,” Atropos warbles, as Lachesis hops in delight, “that ought to do the trick!”