The furious pounding at my
door woke me from a dream I couldn't remember. I grunted, my eyes fluttering to
see nothing but the darkness within my simple cottage. It took a few moments
for my mind to bring itself fully awake, having been so rudely summoned from
its dream state. The frantic pounding didn't stop. I pushed aside my bed
sheets, willing my body to sit up. Everything felt as if in a fog, even more so
“Just a moment!” I finally managed to call out to the person banging on my
door. The banging did stop, but that didn't stop the problem of it still being
the middle of the night. The embers from the night's cooking fire cast a faint
glow upon my home, which finally gave my eyes enough light that they would
consent to seeing around them.
I stood, stopping only to slide an under dress over my naked form. I stepped
around my scrying table, taking care not to bump it in the darkness. The last
thing I needed were my tools taking umbrage at being disturbed. I moved quickly
to the heavy wooden door of my cottage, pulling aside the locking bar with a
The man that greeted me on the stoop of my apartment was a small, nervous man
dressed in casual jeans and a t-shirt from a rock band about which I'd never
heard. His eyes constantly darted about, and he jumped at every noise. His dark
brown eyes had deep circles underneath them, leaving me to wonder when he'd
last slept and if he'd banged on my door in the middle of the night for the
sole purpose of spreading his misery. It seemed unlikely, since I could see one
of my business cards in his hand. It wasn't the first midnight reading I'd
done, but it was the first that hadn't called ahead for an appointment. I knew
I shouldn't have put my address on the thing.
“Guin Lawson?” The man's voice grated my nerves like fingernails on a
chalkboard. I pulled my robe more tightly around my body, feeling vaguely
“Yeah. Can I help you with something?” I tried not to sound too angry. The man
was likely going to offer me money, and I needed money to pay my rent.
“I'm sorry I didn't call...I kind of found your card by accident and it's an
emergency. Can...uh...can I come in?” He glanced behind him, as if worried
someone was coming after him. It seemed unnecessary, since the stairs leading
up to my apartment were rusted and would creak horribly if someone so much as
breathed on them heavily.
“As soon as you tell me what you need from me, of course.” While I lived in a
bad part of town, I wasn't actually worried about anything untoward happening
to me. I was an oracle, and bad things tended to happen to those who would harm
oracles. I just wanted to know what he wanted out of me before I agreed to a
“I...think I've got a ghost stalking me.” He spoke with the utmost of
seriousness. I looked into his face for a moment, trying to judge if he was
lying. The twitch told me no, so I sighed and stepped aside to allow him entry.
He stepped in, the bio-sensors emitting a series of beeps and clicks that
informed me that my guest had three different contagious diseases. I doubted
the correctness of this information, as my apartment's bio-sensors had been on
the fritz since I moved in and my landlord had yet to repair them. I shut the door,
and pointed to my table.
“Sit down, please. Would you like something to drink?” I moved into my kitchen,
hoping that my food replicator was in working order. Supposedly the repair man
had been by earlier today, but then many repairs had supposedly occurred that
had not in actuality. It made me wonder what would happen if I supposedly paid
my rent in a similar manner.
“Uh, no, no thanks. I just, kinda, want to get this over with, you know?” He
moved to one of the chairs I had sitting next to my work table, and sat down.
The chair immediately began to hiss as it adjusted to his shape and weight,
causing him to jolt in surprise.
Why he would be surprised was beyond me. Auto-adjusting chairs had been around
for so long, I'd picked mine up from a re-sale store.
I jammed at buttons on my food replicator, and sighed with relief as a cup of
coffee materialized. I grabbed it by the handle, blew on the liquid, and took a
sip. My relief died when the taste of warmed mud hit my tongue, and I put the
cup back in the replicator with a grunt.
“So. Ghost. Start from the beginning, if you would?” I moved from the kitchen
towards my work table, the carpet feeling odd under my bare feet. I couldn't
put my finger on what, precisely, felt so odd about it. I only knew that it
felt a way it shouldn't, and things feeling ways they shouldn't was something I
noticed as a profession.
If I had to place my finger on it, it felt as though the carpet under my feet
wasn't actually mine. Which was ridiculous. I ignored the feeling, and went
back to paying attention to my client.
“Oh, yes!” He sat up in his chair, the chair hissing again as it adjusted for
his new posture. “It all started a week ago. My uncle died, and he left me his
house. I was pretty much the only family he had left, you see...”
“So you think your uncle is haunting you?” I asked as I sat in a chair across
from him. My own chair hissed as it adjusted around me, and I couldn't help but
smile at one of the few working things in my apartment.
“No...at least, I don't think so. I just...well, let me finish. So, I was going
through his house, finding his old belongings, you know, the usual kind of
thing you do when you inherit a house.” He shifted in his seat, clearly
stifling a yawn. “Well, in the back of a closet, I found a section of the floor
that was loose. Being a curious type, I pried the floorboard up. I found
He reached into his pocket, and pulled free a pendant connected to a thin,
golden chain. He offered it out to me, and I took it, bringing it close to my
face to inspect it carefully.
The faint glow of the embers gave me little detail, though the pendant
reflected the light easily. I could see, in the center of the jewelry, a small
red gemstone. I sighed heavily, getting up from my seat to reach for a lantern.
Though why I would need a lantern, I couldn't fathom. The electricity in my
apartment went out on occasion, but this was not one of those occasions. The
pendant seemed warm within my hand, and I gave it another careful look. It was
old, its years of existence subtly calling out to me, resonating its age within
my mind. If I had to guess, I'd say it was far older than anything within my
Perhaps even old enough to have existed before my scrying tools. Certainly old
enough to have existed before any of the gadgetry that made up the modern life.
I wondered if the bio-sensors would be able to pick up the metal content of the
thing, and decided against it. If I wanted to scan it, I decided, it would be
better to get my tools than rely on improperly functioning furniture.
“Ever since then, I've been having strange dreams. I'll be....I'll be just
walking along, and then suddenly everything is different. It's like...it's like
I'm a thousand years ago, or a couple of hundred, or...I don't know. And every
time, there's this figure that's following me. It's like...I'm sorry. I can't
remember him too well, I just...I know it was the same person.” The man sighed
heavily, slumping in his chair.
For my part, I sat back down and set the pendant in front of me. I wondered for
a moment why my chair wasn't hissing and adjusting, and then wondered why I
would wonder such a thing. Wooden chairs weren't known for hissing.
“How did you hear of me?” I asked cautiously. I made my home in the midst of
the woods for a reason, after all. There were those who would wish harm on an
“An old woman. In town...the apothecary. I was purchasing a potion to help me
sleep, and she got me to talk about what was wrong. Then she suggested you.
I...I'm sorry if I came suddenly, I just...” His head drooped in apology,
causing me to sigh softly.
“You were fearful and hopeful I could help. I understand.” My understanding
didn't stop me from yawning and stretching, however, before continuing. “It
might seem crass, but...well, this is my job. Do you have gold. ...Uh, money. I
mean money.” I couldn't figure out why I'd asked for gold. The bank wanted
actual cash in my account before it would guaranty my check.
“Oh, yes. I'm sorry...how much?” The man reached into his back pocket, pulling
out his wallet.
“Well, that depends fairly heavily on exactly what I have to do. I'll look into
your problem here and now for three hundred nuyen, and we can go from there.” I
reached in front of me and pulled the velvet cloth away from my crystal ball. I
tried to move with ritual, but the hissing of the chair destroyed the air of
solemnity I was trying to create.
The man pulled three bills out of his wallet, and tossed them onto the table. I
reached out, and gently touched my fingers to the glittering sphere that sat
before me. As always, the thrum of magic was warm under my fingertips, and it
caused me to shiver softly. I pushed the feeling aside, instead focusing on the
man and what sat around him spiritually.
The world became white with brightness, the light exploding around me to fill
my vision. This was new to me. The spiritual world was strange, and certainly
played by its own rules, but viewing it was never cause for an explosion of
It took several moments before I could see anything, and then I could see only
the outline of a figure. I couldn't tell if the figure was male or female, I
couldn't tell the shape of the figure's clothing, I couldn't even so much as
tell if the figure was human or simply human shaped.
“Save me...” the words floated into my mind. I recognized spirit speak, but
this was even stranger than normal. The weight of the spirit's words was heavy,
and I searched for some way to make the burden lighter.
“Save me...” the words echoed again, heavy still but less so.
“Save me...” I finally managed to pry my fingers away from my crystal ball, and
the world reverted back to my dimly lit cottage. Cottage? Where was my
“What did you find?” The man across from me asked, a frantic tone to his voice.
I looked up, wondering when he'd changed clothes before realizing he'd done no
such thing. Except I knew that he had, because he'd worn jeans and a t-shirt
when I'd first seen him. Now he looked as though he belonged in a Renaissance
No, I told myself. His clothing was normal, and I was suffering fits from
scrying. It wasn't the first time such a thing had happened, and it certainly
wouldn't be the last. Still, it all seemed so strange. My cottage felt
off-kilter, as though I didn't belong there. Where would I belong otherwise? I
wanted coffee, but my food replicator was still on the fritz. What was a food
replicator and why would my cottage have such a thing?
“...Well?” He asked again, and I realized I'd said nothing for quite some time.
“I'm...not certain,” I finally responded. I was telling the truth, too. Some
spirit needed to be saved, but from what? From when? I couldn't tell if
the spirit was calling to me from the present, or from some far flung future.
The pendant caught my attention, and I reached out to take it. The light
changed in the room as I picked it up, and I could see it more clearly. Why had
the light changed? Because the apartment lights were brighter than the embers
of a dying fire, I answered myself. Why I thought I'd been looking at the
pendant with the embers of a fire, I couldn't say.
“Aren't you an oracle? Your business card says oracle...” the man said, fear
causing his voice to tremble.
“Calm down, I know what my business card says. I was the one who had the things
holo-etched. The problem is that your issue is a lot stranger than being
stalked by a ghost. Tell me about your uncle.” I got up from my chair, ignoring
the thing's hissing as I moved for my more mundane tools. They couldn't be
relied on in the case of magic, but they could give me a good starting point.
“I didn't really know much about him,” the man said as I opened my closet door.
“I think he was a jeweler. I know he collected antiques, he had hundreds of old
bottles and bits of furniture in his house.”
My closet was full of clothing and shoes, but not my toolbox. What toolbox, I
asked myself. The toolbox where I kept my scanners. I didn't have scanners. Yes
I did. I argued with myself in that vein for about a minute before deciding it
was pointless. I didn't even have a closet, let alone a box specifically for my
tools. I moved to the trunk where I kept my clothes and ritual items, and
pushed the lid open.
“I do recall hearing that his casting tools were made by a known diabolist, but
I brushed that aside as hearsay.” The man shrugged, adjusting his tunic with a
nervous hand. “He made good jewelry, and was something of a private person. You
know how people speak of private people.”
I certainly did. Of course, I kept my privacy because I truly did perform feats
of magic. I found my knife, and moved back to my work table. I set the pendant
down in front of me, held my left hand over it, and jabbed the tip of my knife
into my index finger. As always, I hissed in pain as I drew blood. The blood
dripped from my finger onto the pendant, and I stared at it as I set my knife
“....A steak knife?” The man asked, confusion in his voice.
“Something wrong with a steak knife?” I asked, my gaze never wavering from the
pendant. Eventually, the interaction of the pendant's magical resonance and my
own would begin giving me information. I hoped.
“I just...expected something a little more...fancy?”
“Magic's less about fancy than you'd expect,” I responded. “More about just
knowing what you're doing. Fancy tools are for souls that haven't traveled long
enough with their power.”
Finally, the intermingling resonances began to give me information. I could
practically taste the magics of time built into the thing, which explained the
weight of the spirit's words. It also explained, at least in some small amount,
exactly what was going on.
I stood from my chair, pushing the metal folding thing back from the table as I
did so. I needed my tools, only my tools weren't in this apartment. The idea of
“this apartment” still felt strange, but I was positive that it was the correct
one. The question was how to move from this apartment to...my apartment in the
future? Douglas Adams had been right. Verb tense was the hardest part of time
I moved to the closet again, only to find that I had no closet. The apartment
was once again my one room cottage. I turned back towards my work table,
peering at the pendant with a furrowed brow. As I suspected, the pendant
had caused the shift. I could feel it in the way my finger throbbed. The
question was how to control the shift, and to what end.
“Have you figured out the problem, then?” The man asked, his voice hopeful.
“...Part of it, at least. The pendant appears to be causing your issues by
shifting your awareness through time. You, being a non-magical soul, could
merely dream the shifts.” I sighed, looking to the spot where my closet should
be. It was instead a shelf with several books.
“So how do I fix it?” The man was clearly hopeful.
“I'm still working on that,” I responded. If the pendant was shifting my
awareness in time, was it doing so randomly? It was possible, though I didn't
have the tools to tell.
“But...you're an oracle! You're supposed to know these things!” The man
nearly cried with frustration. I felt his pain.
“Yes, but I'm young currently. If you'd come to me with this problem in a
thousand years, I'd have the tools with which to deal with it. As it sits, I'm
having to flail about.” The frustration was good, though. I knew it would help
me, if I could merely focus. I closed my eyes and took a breath, willing myself
To my delight, it worked. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in front of my
closet door. I touched it gently, and it slid open with a small burst of air. I
reached inside and grabbed my tool box, before moving quickly back to my work
“Instead of whining, you could help me by telling me what you're seeing while
we talk,” I told the man as I set my toolbox down.
“I'm not whining! And I'm...I dunno. Watching you move around and do stuff, I
guess.” He really did seem to believe that, and it would coincide with how the
shifts had been happening. Had he really not been noticing it? Of course he
hadn't. I'd already told him why.
I opened my toolbox, reaching my non-punctured hand inside. I reached by
instinct for the chronometer, flipping it on. It hummed softly as it came to
life, and the read out began displaying information. Originally designed to
keep time quickly and efficiently no matter how far past the central atomic
clock one went, chronometers tended to go a little wonky when in the presence
of time affecting magics.
This one could be correctly described as going insane. It kept flashing times
and dates from throughout history, which told me that the spell was certainly
powerful enough to be causing such a massive shift. That didn't give me
information on how to control it, though. That hardly mattered, since I
was more interested in how to stop it. I put my chronometer back in the
box, and pulled out my metal scanner. The device would let me know the
consistency of the metal, which I hoped would tell me the rest of what I needed
As suspected, the pendent was made from a mixture of gold and iron. Not a very
common alloy. The pendant was still a gold color, however. That alone was
curious, but the real strange part was that the red gem in the center was
unreadable. That only happened under one circumstance.
“Your uncle's casting tools. What were they made from?” I looked at the man
sternly, hoping to indicate that he shouldn't lie to me.
“My uncle's what? He didn't have any casting tools...my uncle was a
programmer.” He shifted in his seat, wincing at the hiss. It reminded me that I
really should look into getting some newer chairs.
“But you said...no. You in the past said your uncle was a jeweler. Dammit. Did
you still find this at your uncle's house?” I held the pendant up to indicate
“...Of course I did. I told you, in the closet while I was looking through his
antiques and such.” The man seemed confused by my question. He would be
confused, since I had switched times again and had no clue what his end of the
conversation had been. I growled softly.
“Ok, what did I just ask you?” I had to get a handle on what he was hearing.
“You asked me about my uncle's casting tools. They were made of silver and
iron.” The man seemed nearly eager to answer the question, his excitement
evident even in the dim light of the embers. I'd shifted again.
Still, I had the information I needed. Silver and iron tools, a pendent made of
gold and iron with a gem that could not be identified. This pendant was a
capturing device. Such items were often used by diabolists to hold a human
soul, as a gift used to appease a demon. Getting the soul out was often a
hassle, involving quests or discovering the trick.
Thankfully, the trick in this case had fallen in my lap. I could come up with
only one reason why a time shift would accompany the creation. I stood to my
feet, and moved away from the table towards my chest. I shifted through my
clothing until my fingers found what they sought. I wrapped my fingers around
it, and pulled free a heavy hammer.
“...What are you doing?” The man asked, fear in his voice. I looked up from my
junk drawer, giving him a light shrug.
“Gotta break the pendant. Don't worry, I'm at least pretty sure it'll fix your
problem. Of course, I'm probably gonna charge you another five hundred bucks.”
I moved to the center of my apartment, sitting on my knees. I set the pendant
in front of me, and gripped the hammer tightly.
“A thousand nuyen?! For breaking a old piece of jewelry?!” The man seemed
horrified as I set the sonic-disruption device.
“Do you want to keep being harassed by the dreams? Or would you rather I fix
the problem you brought to me at two in the morning?” My tone gave every
indication that I would take no argument. I was the oracle, he was the man who
rung my bell in the middle of the night. He seemed to understand, sitting
back in his chair as he dug through his wallet again.
I finished programming the sonic disruptor, and pointed it at the pendant. The
hammer felt heavy as I swung it down towards the pendant, and as the head hit
the jewelry it shattered all over my wooden floor. Bits of metal and shards of
jewel flew into the crevices of the rough wood, and the place exploded in a
As before, the whiteness faded just enough to allow me to see a figure. I could
make out more details this time, though not by much. The figure was male,
its clothes even older than the oldest I could remember. His eyes were hollow,
though his lips turned up in a light smile.
“Thank you, oracle.” The spirit's words echoed in my mind, still with the heavy
weight. Now I understood what I'd been feeling in the spirit's speech. Being
bound for all eternity would weigh down anyone.
The figure faded away, and the brightness faded away. The memories that were
not yet mine to have began to fade within my mind, but that didn't bother me. I
was young still, I would have time to experience future lives.
“...Did that fix it?” The man asked, his voice heavy with hope and fear. I
turned to look at him, unable to hide my smile.
“It did. The spirit shall trouble you no more. Now, if it's not too much
trouble, I would ask for you to leave the gold and leave me be. The night is
late, and I would like to return to my slumber.” I pushed myself to my feet,
and moved towards the door. The man stood to his feet, and dumped his purse on
the table before heading out.
Once the man was out in the dark night, I shut and barred the door. I moved to
the gold he'd left, inspecting the amount carefully. The odd thought of
paying my rent floated through my mind, but I abandoned it easily. The tax
collectors rarely bothered me so deep in the woods.