First was Chaos. Before all else- the gods, the worlds, the heavens- Chaos existed: a swirling emptiness, a void filled with potential. The threshold between nothing and everything. When I was a child I did not understand the difference between nothing and the chaos of Old Gemenese, but I see it now: chaos is the ultimate liminal space, the birthplace of all change, and the girl sitting in front of me.
Russet hair, immaculately draped and pinned tunic, and the expression of a teenager who in no way wishes to be anywhere near me, the temple, or the gods. Like the best heroes- the ones resigned to history, never to be lauded in myth- she wants no part of the future I see for her. No Achilles, this one, despite the fact that she has circled the suns of creation more than a handful of times. Multiple lives haunt her every move, all marked by the same stubbornness. Always an author of change, always faced with a new challenge at every turn, always finding the Zeus to her Hera at the eleventh hour.
Such sad lives she leads. They drape her in blood-red veils like a bride. It is a pity, but when the gods fashion their tools, they like to keep them. Other lives may be left to the underworld after one use, but this one- they like this one.
The words are ritual; I have said them a thousand times. “What do you seek?”
She jumps slightly, startled. “I come to know my fate, if it should please the gods,” the girl stammers. Her pupils are beginning to dilate, influenced by the heavy dose of chamalla in the air. I can see it suddenly, a hint of the future: the chamalla leaves in her hand, the metal bars of her cage, the snakes on the altar. What I see is not the depths of prophecy, but the threshold.
With most girls this would be all I need to know, but tradition demands proper ritual, and it is not often I meet such an old soul. “Come closer.” She complies unwillingly. “What is your name?”
Names are immaterial with this girl, but custom demands and I am curious. What name does she bear, this time around?
“Laura,” she replies, her voice tinged with the hint of a nervous quaver. I hear what she cannot: the echo of her other lives pealing their names like tolling bells. Antigone, Miranda, Thalia, Chloe, Helen...
An apt name, that last one. I could make puns with that name for hours. The stem mimics the aorist of haireo, meaning to seize, to overpower. To kill. This girl has killed, and will again. I cannot judge her for it. All heroes kill; it is in their nature to build and destroy at the same time.
“Are you so ignorant, my child? For this, I must know your full name. I cannot speak your truth without knowing at least that.” I allow a mocking note to slip into my voice. A hero must be riled.
“Telling someone your full name gives them something of you,” she replies with a surge of spirit. Her crowd of ghosts is similarly effected. One catches my eye. She grins wryly at me, her hand possessive on the girl’s shoulder. A snake drapes her own shoulders, half-hidden in the fall of red hair.
I allow myself an audible laugh. I had never thought to meet Pythia while I yet lived, and yet here she stands, staring me in the face: the living girl and the ancient saint. “Good, good. You are not completely ignorant.”
She shifts uncomfortably, the coronet of her hair glinting like a crown under the light. “'It's Roslin. Laura Roslin. Look, can we just get this over with?”
Pythia laughs silently over the girl’s shoulder, and I cannot help but join in her laughter. “Not a believer then, eh?”
“No,” she says, pride in her voice.
“So you say. So all the young ones say. Yet some day this will change.” Small visions of the future reveal themselves to me: trampled barley under gray skies, fires devouring the grand towers of Caprica City, a small group of humanity set loose among the stars. Searching. Grieving. Lost.
“You will see this change, Laura Roslin. Laura; laurel, the garland of victory. You will snatch victory for your people from the jaws of defeat, but it will be a pyhrric victory for you. You who revile the scriptures now will one day embody them. The book of Pythia shall detail your life, and Zeus will stand at your side, and his wooden walls will be your shelter and your salvation.”
The girl stands stunned, her ghosts momentarily still in this moment. Pythia seems to bend under the weight of some invisible burden, and as she leans into the girl the child grows paler and paler. Her shoulders droop, and fear takes residence in her eyes. Perhaps she sees me as the bringer of this nightmare, but the monsters responsible are not in this room. The monsters are the gods who set all of these lives in motion, who watch the cycling generations like distant theatre-goers. They set their hounds on Pythia’s mind, they led Miranda to the altar and the knife, they gave Antigone to the looped and knotted rope. For a moment the girl seems to see what I see, the variations in the shadows that are her own personal ghosts.
Her nails dig into her palms and her blood falls to the carpet. The muses sing of Odysseus, who gave blood to the shades of the underworld and reminded them of who they had been. Her blood sings as well, sings a strange, heady song to her own shades. Her ghosts writhe around her, their abandon loosening my already tenuous hold on my gifts. But I have seen too much already, I cannot see more, I cannot bear more-
“Are you done?” she asks, seeming to regain some measure of her composure, and oh, I see too much. I see the death of billions, I see endless halls of light and the graceful balustrades of an opera house, I see the wreckage of a city that has waited thousands of years to be found.
I see blood on the girl’s hands and an unwished-for love in her heart.
I do not even try to repress my descent into the madness of true prophecy. “Done? Done? It is never done, Laura Roslin. Go!” I jerk my hand out in dismissal, but I no longer see my surroundings: just the girl and Pythia, the puppet of the gods who authored this madness. Yes, this girl will one day walk the same liminal spaces I tread, will one day love and kill and heal and her ghosts will walk beside her. “The oracle has spoken,” I say pleadingly, unwillingly to Pythia, who shakes her head slowly and sadly, her fingers inexorably entangled in the girl’s hair.
There is one thing left to say in me, though I do not want to say it. As the girl retreats from my vision it spills from me like a flood: “Remember, child: this is not all that we are. All this has happened before, all this will happen again.” And again, and again, and again, like the turning of the seasons. The girl with the coronet is gone from my sight, but in the depths of my madness she remains. I walk gray halls beside Pythia the girl and Laura the woman, who is no longer what she was but something more, and her blood sings strangely now. I see them all, the reincarnated few brought together once more, all filled with the chaos of the sacred scrolls. Power, glory, damnation and newly-discovered old love clash and I am glad, glad, glad...
...for on that fateful day, I will be long dead.