In celebration of the release of THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS by Jane Yolen, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that “delights, confounds, and challenges.” (Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and A Wild Winter Swan).
The Weaver of Tomorrow
Once, on the far side of yesterday, there lived a girl who wanted to know the future. She was not satisfied with knowing that the grass would come up each spring and that the sun would go down each night. The true knowledge she desired was each tick of tomorrow, each fall and each failure, each heartache and each pain, that would be the portion of every man. And because of this wish of hers, she was known as Vera, which is to say, True.
At first it was easy enough. She lived simply in a simple town, where little happened to change a day but a birth or a death that was always expected. And Vera awaited each event at the appointed bedside and, in this way, was always the first to know.
But as with many wishes of the heart, hers grew from a wish to a desire, from a desire to an obsession. And soon, knowing the simple futures of the simple people in that simple town was not enough for her.
“I wish to know what tomorrow holds for everyone,” said Vera. “For every man and woman in our country. For every man and woman in our world.”
“It is not good, this thing you wish,” said her father.
But Vera did not listen. Instead she said, “I wish to know which king will fall and what the battle, which queen will die and what the cause. I want to know how many mothers will cry for babies lost and how many wives will weep for husbands slain.”
And when she heard this, Vera’s mother made the sign against the Evil One, for it was said in their simple town that the future was the Devil’s dream.
But Vera only laughed and said loudly, “And for that, I want to know what the Evil One himself is doing with his tomorrow.”
Since the Evil One himself could not have missed her speech, the people of the town visited the mayor and asked him to send Vera away.
The mayor took Vera and her mother and father, and they sought out theold man who lived in the mountain, who would answer one question a year. And they asked him what to do about Vera.
The old man who lived in the mountain, who ate the seeds that flowers dropped and the berries that God wrought, and who knew all about yesterdays and cared little about tomorrow, said, “She must be apprenticed to the Weaver.”
“A weaver!” said the mayor and Vera’s father and her mother all at once. They thought surely that the old man who lived in the mountain had at last gone mad.
But the old man shook his head. “Nor a weaver, but the Weaver, the Weaver of Tomorrow. She weaves with a golden thread and finishes each piece with a needle so fine that each minute of the unfolding day is woven into her work. They say that once every hundred years there is need for an apprentice, and it is just that many years since one has been found.”
“Where docs one find this Weaver?” asked the mayor.
“Ah, that I cannot say,” said the old man who lived in the mountain, “for I have answered one question already.” And he went back to hiscave and rolled a stone across the entrance, a stone small enough to let the animals in but large enough to keep the townspeople out.
“Never mind,” said Vera. “I would be apprenticed to this Weaver. And not even the Devil himself can keep me from finding her.”
And so saying, she left the simple town with nothing but the clothes upon her back. She wandered until the hills got no higher but the valleys got deeper. She searched from one cold moon until the next. And at last, without warning, she came upon a cave where an old woman in black stood waiting.
“You took the Devil’s own time coming,” said the old woman.
“It was not his time at all,” declared Vera.
“Oh, but it was,” said the old woman, as she led the girl into the cave.
And what a wondrous place the cave was. On one wall hung skeins of yarn of rainbow colors. On the other walls were tapestries of delicate design. In the center of the cave, where a single shaft of sunlight fell, was the loom of polished ebony, higher than a man and three times as broad, with a shuttle that flew like a captive blackbird through the golden threads of the warp.