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Philip Hallawell - The Hands of Fate
The Hands of Fate
Philip Hallawell

Threads

By Charlotte I. Taylor

She could hear the spinning of the wheel.

Atropos stood in the middle of the room. Threads hung down like a curtain around her. She reached out and took a bunch into her hand. They were gold and soft, but along the woven strands there were specks of red. Some strands shone silver against the gold. She clutched her fistful, and a handful of actions filled her head, tangling around each other in her mind; she could barely discern the separate lives, the separate people's moments she held.

"Dad, I don't want that car. I want the Camaro."

A woman, sitting at her table, held an ice pack to her blackened eye. "Stop, let me go."

A scream pierced Atropos's mind. She focused on that one strand, at that moment.

A girl's sundress was ripped from her shoulders, exposing her barely formed breasts. A man's hands raked over the flesh.

Atropos felt it.

She let the handful spill from her hands, and combed her fingers through the curtain, until she found the strand that was the girl's attacker's life. It was a gold strand, with bits of red. She held it between her fingertips and watched this moment spread out crimson against the gold. She felt the man's hate. She felt his need for domination. She felt both his fear and his rage.

She looked down at the Shears in her other hand.

"Atropos." The golden strand slipped through her fingers. Lachesis stood on the outskirts of the threads, shaking her head. Atropos watched her enter. Golden threads clothed her. She took three strands between her fingers. She held the threads taut, toward Atropos. Atropos moved closer. The Shears hung at her side.

There was a silver thread.

Atropos brought up the Shears and enclosed the strands between her blades. She paused.

"It is time." Lachesis said.

"The silver thread," Atropos asked. "Who is he?"

Lachesis looked at Atropos. "Cut," she said.

The Shears closed and the threads fell to the floor. Silver glittered among the gold. The cut ends were drenched in blood red.

Lachesis combed her fingers through more of the threads. She touched each on almost lovingly before picking through them. Atropos cut each that was held out to her, like a dutiful daughter as her mother sewed, grasping Shears to help.

Threads littered the floor. Some with tips that looked wet with blood. Some were pure gold. Others shimmering silver. Many touched with black streaks.

Lachesis walked to the door. She looked back.

"He spoke for peace," Lachesis said. "He helped the poor. He bought land to be preserved. He spoke of brotherhood, kindness. He spoke of love. For everyone. And all things."

Lachesis left.

Atropos looked down at the Shears in her hand. She slid her back down the wall and sat with her arms crossed over her knees. She was free for another day, until tomorrow, when she would cut again.

She could hear the spinning of the wheel.

She closed her eyes. The work grew longer, time to rest grew shorter. Clotho now never left the wheel. She spun and spun and spun. New lives, new faces, new hope.

And Atropos cut the threads of life. The young. The old. The innocent. The poor.

She cut. And Lachesis measured the lengths of the threads. She doled out destiny. She handed out time.

And Atropos cut.

All the lives of the world surrounded her. The room filled each day with bright new threads. Each night more were cut and fell. And still the room filled. It was suffocating, the threads. Atropos felt it. The threads, the lives, were strangling her. They were like a disease growing, wrapping around her, filling the room. Giving Clotho no respite from her wheel, giving Lachesis no time to reconsider what she measured. And still Atropos cut.

Specks of black hate stained the threads. Spots of red splattered the room like dying stars in the curtain of gold. The silver threads of those who had some special gift to give humanity were harder to find among the golds, and yet, Atropos felt that she was cutting more and more of them each night.

There were days that Atropos longed to take her Shears and cut all the threads down and begin anew. Afresh with new hope for more silver threads. There were nights that she did not want to cut at all; she only wanted to lay down the burden of her Shears.

Atropos lifted her head.

Lachesis entered the room again. As if it were possible, she was even more pale and gaunt. Dark circles engulfed her eyes, and she walked as if in a waking nightmare.

Atropos stood, called by Lachesis's destiny, unable to deny the will of fate.

She could hear the spinning of the wheel.

Lachesis took a massive handful of threads. She picked out two gold ones and let them free of her fist. Atropos stared at her, but Lachesis only nodded slightly to the Shears still in Atropos's hand.

Atropos walked weakly over.

She set the blades against the threads and looked at Lachesis again.

She cut.

Screams seared her ears.

Lachesis took another handful, giving only one thread life.

Atropos cut.

Screams filled the room.

Another handful.

Atropos cut.

It was mechanical.

A handful.

A cut.

Screams.

A handful.

A cut.

The spinning of the wheel.

Atropos followed Lachesis through the room. She cut. She cut. She cut.

Lachesis stopped. Apropos looked at her in horror. The threads hung in shreds around them. Marred and jagged where they'd been severed. Their dullness contrasting terribly against the long silken ones. More than a third were cut.

Tears fell down Lachesis's cheeks. Atropos stumbled, catching herself against the wall. She leaned into it, resting her head against its cool surface.

The wheel paused.

Atropos and Lachesis both looked up. Clotho was sitting at her wheel in the corner. She looked up at them both. She was a wraith. Her fingers moved away from the wheel to her lap. They were broken with blisters, torn and ragged. Blood dripped from their tips, leaving drops of red on white linen.

The world fell silent.

The wheel fell still.

Clotho shed one tear.

Her fingers returned to the wheel. Each new thread woven was stained with her blood.

"Does it never stop?" Atropos cried.

Clotho did not look up.

Lachesis took the new threads and hung them from the ceiling. The cut threads had fallen, and there were glaring empty spaces in the room. They would be filled with new threads.

Atropos reached out to hang new life, but Lachesis shook her head.

"You are needed to cut." Lachesis nodded to the threads. Clusters of them were oozing black across them.

Atropos stared. What had the world become? There was no time to look.

She lifted her Shears.


Bio: Charlotte I. Taylor holds a BA in English from the College of Saint Rose, in Albany, NY. She has previously been published in The Mythic Circle and The Blessed Bee and has had a poem selected to appear in NewWitch later this year. She is currently working on a collection of short stories as well as her first novel. Charlotte works for United Airlines and lives in Indiana with her husband.


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