The Golden Orb of Important Things
By Amelia Brown
Once upon a time there was a baby girl. She was christened Susan, and at her christening, when the Fae came to bless her birth, they brought with them a golden orb that showed the most important event taking place in the world at any given time. They held it before her, her parents, her godparents and grandparents and promised her that when the time was right, they would let her take three looks into the mirrored surface to see important things.
So it was that Susan was raised in the knowledge that someday, when the time was right, she would look into the golden orb and see three events of unparalleled significance. Imagining all the things of importance she might see, Susan lived her life with a sense of splendor. She sought desperately to prepare herself for such a viewing, learning everything she could about anything considered vital, or paramount—anything important. Education of art and culture, complicated sciences and mathematics, politics and research studies, as well as wealth and discovery and anything that involved the word ‘best’ or ‘preeminent’ or ‘success’ was found to play a fundamental role in her formation. And in a life of such grandeur, her world was a ball of shine.
So, too, anything that spoke of less, or was shabby and ‘low-brow’ had no place in the world of Susan. For, to become steeped in anything of that kind would lessen her for the greatness she was, one day, to witness.
When the day came for Susan to look upon the golden face of the orb, the Fae came for her. It was an ordinary day, and Susan could not help feeling that the fairy creatures should have picked a better one—one with shining sun and bluest skies. But that did not dampen her excitement, for this was the day she would look and see the three most important events in all the world at this particular moment in time.
Thus, when the Fae set the gold orb before her, Susan looked.
She saw a woman of middle years, her dress of hardy linen, but filled with holes, and a ragged shawl of red wool upon her shoulders. The woman stopped before a man, too thin with weariness and hunger. She looked him right in the eye and smiled kindly, all the while draping her cloak about his bony shoulders and slipping him a loaf of bread.
The image cleared to nothing more than a golden surface. Susan frowned. Perhaps the orb had made a mistake. Or perhaps the world was merely going through a slow minute. But when she looked up into the faces of the fairy creatures, they told her to look again.
She cocked her head, blinked, and opened her eyes before the orb.
She saw a tall man, his body thick with muscles, and with a look of fury upon his face as he advanced upon a woman whose cowering body stooped over three small children. He raised his fist in anger. Then, he set it down. And fell on his knees and wept.
Susan blinked again as the image cleared. A crease appeared between her brows. She glanced up at the Fae again, but they simply nodded toward the orb.
And so she looked a third time.
A withered woman with gnarled hands was moving slowly about a thatched cottage pulling down dried herbs from hanging branches, crushing them just so, and placing them in a cloth of clean muslin. A young woman stood at her door, her clothes stained with grease and blood and with dirt along her fingers and under her nails. The old woman handed her the poultice and waved away a dirty proffered coin. In the young woman's place a ragged old man appeared, and the old woman set to work again.
As the image cleared and Susan blinked, she knew she had looked her last upon the golden orb. Then she smiled slightly, an ironic, enlightened grin. For the foundation of her world had shattered, and on three glances at a golden surface would she build it up again.