“What I’ve done in life cannot be changed,” I told her, gazing into the fire. “The future is full of possibility, but the men I have killed know no such luxury- the stories of their lives are told and done.”
“You know nothing of fate, then, child.” The priestess rested her chin upon my shoulder, then wrapped her arms about my waist. “The future is immutable, and to one such as me, always visible. But the past? Ah, it is beyond me, for it is still being decided.”
“How can such a thing be?” I tensed and recoiled, but her hands remained steady. “You know nothing of the past? What of memory? Regret? Nostalgia?”
“Time is no different than any direction in space,” she added. “What seems possible depends upon what direction you face within it. Whereas your mind is fixed towards the past, mine is pivoted towards the future. This changes the way we navigate reality. You are haunted by sins you believe yourself to have committed, and I, by those that I know I will be done.”
“Then you also know how you die?”
“Yes,” she replied. “By your hand.”
“What?" Those words left me cold enough that I could no longer feel the fire before us. "Why would I do such a thing?”
She shook her head. “Do not allow it to worry you. My work here is to heal you, regardless of the price.”
“No,” I shot back. “I swore never to kill again after the war, only to cultivate. I can leave this sanctuary. I can decide not to do this. I can prevent your prophecy from coming true.”
“Perhaps you can, but I cannot. Let me show you, for just a moment, the possibilities of a world where ‘then’ comes before ‘if.’” And her hands slid their way upward to my temples, slowly, and I felt my head turning in a direction that I could not comprehend.
At that moment, I remembered the warmth of her blood as it dripped upward from my hands to her throat, an inevitable horror rewinding towards the present. It was vivid, and true. I gazed into the past, wondering who I was that I could do such a thing, and I saw my life as an assassin, a beggar, a highwayman, an inquisitor, a tax collector, a cannibal, a poacher, a heretic, a deserter, a former lover, a madman, a bounty hunter, a scoundrel, a drunkard, a fool, a sleepwalker, a spy, and all of these truths were within reach. I saw comrades and foes alike, both dead and alive, their arms flickering between flesh and bone. They were reaching out to me from my memories, pleading for me to choose a world in which they lived- but their hands grew distant once more as I felt my mind slide backwards towards the present, and those familiar hands caressing my shoulders.
“We have felt the future together, now.” She spoke. “Accept that this transgression is inevitable, and you may choose the sins that brought you here. Those who died by your hand might very well live again. My blood shall be an offering in exchange for theirs.”
I could not believe what I had seen, and what temptation was still within me. I wept for a long time after that; all the while, she held me tightly, and even pressed the knife into my hands. I thought long on her offer, on who I might become, and who deserved their lives restored most of all.
Then, I let go.
“You will be back,” she cursed as I walked away. “As your life leaks from your heart, as your sins become too heavy to bear, you’ll know that it’s time to return to my arms. Hell awaits us both, but you and I have felt the future together, and that can never be undone.”
Perhaps those words will come true, or perhaps she will prove instead to be a liar. I, myself, am reaching towards the latter, but in my dreams, I still see the ones who reach for me.