The girl:

This girl, for all her other faults, whatever they may be, has near-perfect foresight. If it will happen, she has seen it; so she is not an easy girl to surprise. But as she unfolds this letter, delivered from the future in a manner as strange as it was expected, she knows there is something ahead that she can’t see. Of course, she knew this would happen, sooner or later. She knows the events that will now occur as a result of the letter’s arrival.

And the mathemagician, seeing her unfold the note and read its uncomplicated message, nods his head one and a half times, and squints at the future. She can see it, in no particular order; he can calculate it, one direction at a time. Together they see things very differently from the rest of us.

Hindsight affords a clarity so pure that no bookmaker takes money on a race that has already been run. Foresight, in contrast, is blurry and dim. But if you are unfortunate enough to have the two reversed, the effects can be difficult, to say the least. So the girl can’t remember how she came to be cursed with this affliction, or when people first started asking her to report the things that lay ahead — using useless words like “luck” in a future that is, to those who can see it so, as certain as fate. And why ask about fate? — because that is the one thing which, if you just wait a while, you can be certain you will find out about anyway.

So she left her family, and the town, and the people who would forever press her to announce the things they did not have the patience to discover: the weekend’s weather, the outcome of tomorrow’s races, the identities of future lovers. She came to rest, inevitably, as the only neighbour of the mathemagician, who — for as long as anyone can remember — had opted to be reclusive for mostly similar reasons. Maybe he can be her friend because, unlike everybody else, he doesn’t pester her with stupid questions.

She knows that any moment now she will decide to track this letter back through its route, ahead through time, to the source that she cannot see. All the things that are going to happen to her are there in her mind; not necessarily in sequence, because humans often get the timing wrong, even in memory. But she has in her hand the proof that somewhere ahead her future runs out, and beyond that there is someone who is involved enough to draw her towards it.

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