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 For genprompt_bingo: May you live in interesting times.

Some days, Cleo thinks about dying. She thinks she’s figured out how to do it, finally. She’s tried before, back when she was the Weaver of Greece and then as Queen of Spring and after that as the Wife of Midsummer and in those long years where she was nothing. She’s Cleo now, Cleo the Teacher in Silent Sound, and she hasn’t found a reason to die yet.

The dreams still come, bright and horrifying. She dreams of cities turned to ash and stars falling from the sky. The visions still come whenever she looks people in the eyes, futures that may come to pass for children barely old enough to read and tired, worn adults. Sometimes, she makes suggestions, things that sound like normal advice but with a precognition no one else will ever know about.

When she first meets Alexandria Smith, she’s six and part of her seventy-eighth second-grade class. Cleo still looks twenty-seven, like she has since before the library burned. That night still comes back to haunt her some nights, with first the taste of ashes and sand in her mouth and the knowledge that humanity had finally destroyed a gate and then the horror of realizing that Clio was still inside. Alexandria knows how to read already, so Cleo pays her little mind until, in one way or another, they lock eyes.

Cleo sees fire and blood, cities in ruin and streets filled with shattered glass, drawn swords and words made weapons. She wants to scream, to tell the little girl to run away, but she can’t. The words stick in her throat as she sees the sun setting for the last time over a ruined world instead of a ruined city. She can’t tell Alexandria just what her future holds; she would out herself and doom the world.

So, when asked what she would become by the little girl with glowing eyes and choppy hair, Cleo just smiles and says, “you will live in interesting times,” and doesn’t mention that it’s a famous curse. She’ll figure it out soon enough.


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