Of Soulmates, of Online Personality Quizzes, of Disposition.
I’ve always been interested in world-building, so for my project, I’ve mapped out and explored the stories of four key places in a world I will use to explore nuanced identity.
In a city where fortune-telling is sewn into the fabric of the streets, the locals’ fun turned obsession, the tourist attraction, most popular side hustle, and economy, hangs the putrid scent of despair. The fortune district houses lines of shops after shops, each more vibrant than the next, promising future. They’re inviting, exciting, hopeful even. The air is stale and masked.
This is a town of whole-hearted trust. Of soulmates, of online personality quizzes. Of disposition, really. Destiny.
There is a child born one day in this city, in the same hospital her mother was born in, on the day she was due. July 7th. 10:03 pm. (Numbers. Dates. Times. They’re all very important in this town; they’re studied, analyzed, picked apart.)
Her name is Connor, and she’s going to be a golf player.
This is what she’s told at age 11.
11 is an important age in this city. At 11, every child visits the oldest fortune telling house in the district and bears their forehead, the most vulnerable part of the body, to the oldest woman in the house. Then they wait. And what comes next is not a vague description of their future, but instead their new schedule, focused on the career picked by the fortune telling woman.
On her 11th birthday, under the sweltering heat of the July sun, Connor walks to the fortune telling district alone. Each house she passes coaxes her, luring with any bait that’ll catch. Free food, air conditioning, messages, candy, you name it. But the only building she’s allowed into is the one at the end of the line. The one with the porch, cacti spilling onto the ground, a rocking chair, and two people standing outside sweating from anxiety and the heat. It’s almost comical. She gets in line. Waits for her future.
No one talks before their ceremony. It’s a quiet procedure; from the minute you get within a 2 mile radius of the house it’s dead silent except for the wind and beating hearts. Connor does not question anything. She complies. When her name is called she almost does not notice, the people waiting in line in front of her have disappeared. It’s no matter. She walks into the house when she is told, follows the old lady through the rooms. They’re plainer than she’d imagined them to be, but figures the fortune tellers need room to construct, to pull together energy and image with a bleak background in order for the destiny reading to be pure, correct, followable. Rooms and rooms full of nothing; the house is unending. The woman finally stops to look at her, places a hand on her forehead, closes her eyes. Connor does the same. There are no words. She gets her fortune.
The next day she breaks into her school (it’s the tallest building she knows to go to), runs up the stairs to the rooftop, faces the city’s golf course. Screams.
Fantasy worlds that explore identity and systems in the real world have always been intriguing to me. I started developing a world in which I could explore these concepts about a year ago, and wanted my multi-media project to be a starting point for a much larger project. I worked really hard on developing topical tones for each piece of this series and had a lot of fun playing around with the map creation website Inkarnate to put visuals to my imagination.
Sydney Johnson is a long time reader, inquisitive writer and student. She loves listening to and making music, her houseplants and the visual and written arts. Her goal as a writer is to have the ability to guide her readers into understanding even her most complex thoughts.