Oracle says future is mean in 2018

PHOTO: Lee Dix, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

I dream of an old schoolhouse, a maze of stained oak trim and hardwood floors. Cavernous hallways and stairwells double back on themselves. I run the labyrinth. Not all footsteps are my own. I’m lost. Hissing bursts of steam punctuate a mechanized droning sound.

I awaken in a small dark space. The dream ends, but the sound is real. I’m in some kind of vehicle, slow and lumbering. Light streams from a hatch above me, illuminating the clouds of my breath. Peering through, I see a determined otter wearing a helmet and tiny flak jacket at the controls of what appears to be a steam powered tank.

Though the tank has no windows, I know where we are. Just past the winter solstice, I’ve again been summoned to the Sax-Zim Bog to see the Oracle. Or so I think.

It’s much warmer in the cabin. Behind me, two more otters feed coal into a boiler. They see me and shout, “He awake!”

The captain looks back at me. “Almost there,” he chatters in his limited vocal range. Now I hear swamp brush scraping against the body of the tank. A few minutes later, the lead otter pulls a release valve, letting out a huge whistle and blowing steam out the side of the tank. The vehicle eases to a stop.

“We here.”

Stepping out, I gasp. Last year the swamp changed significantly as beavers built an enormous “Stump Tower,” began wearing power ties, and grew out their fur in flowing coifs. Now the place looks like an industrial moonscape. The power hungry beavers still seem in charge, but they look like they haven’t slept since last year. Their ties and hair dangle askew.

“Welcome to the bog, Mr. Brown. We’ve been expecting you.”

That name. That face. It couldn’t be.

“We haven’t met yet. I’m Sean Spicer.”

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer now stands before me in a pair of snow bibs designed to appear like a business suit.

“I’m sorry, but what are you doing here?” I ask.

“Jobs were scarce after I left the White House,” he replies. “These woodland creatures were willing to put an extra zero on the end of my salary just to get me out here. Then I found out that they meant after the decimal point. By that time, I didn’t know how to get home. Is this Siberia?”

“Minnesota,” I say.

“This is a state? I thought this was one of Vlad’s camps. Anyway, we brought you here to …”

“Where is the Oracle?” I interrupt.

“Well, she started investigating Stump Tower. She found some alleged collaboration with a global syndicate of migratory birds based in Russia who also own the New York Knicks and several international shipping companies. Anyway, it’s all fake news.”

“But, she’s the Oracle? She sees the future!”

“We aren’t worried about the future at Stump Tower. Just the here and now. We brought you here for a reason. But first, let’s look around. Over here you’ll see the Department of Sharing.”

Dozens of mink, ferrets and pine martens gather around a table filled with Twinkies, watching a bear eat all of them.”

“But that bear isn’t sharing,” I say.

“Oh, in about 12 hours that bear will give them something to eat.” Spicer changes the subject, “Up next you see the Department of Friends.”

“But those two badgers are fighting tooth and nail,” I say.

“Oh, they’re friends,” says Spicer. “They just tried talking about politics. One of them believes that air is real and the other thinks that air is a government conspiracy preventing us from using our secret gills. Anyway, this last one is the best. Here’s the Department of Happiness.”

“Well, these critters are just staring at their phones,” I say.

“It might look that way, but in surveys these animals claim a satisfaction rate of 72.”

I look at him.

“That’s a lot.”

This is madness. “Why am I here?” I shout.

“Well, that’s just it. We brought you here to fire the Oracle of the Sax-Zim Bog.”

“Fire her? Can I do that? Can anyone do that? I mean, the truth is the truth.”

“Only if people know what the truth is. Anyway, we can’t let you go home until you fire her. Just a simple thing. The words are “You’re fired.” Say them, and you’ll be warm in your bed in no time. She’s right out there in the woods.”

I run haltingly over the frozen swamps, careful not to trip on the tufts of icy vegetation. I’m glad to leave the madness of Stump Tower behind me, but worried about what comes next. Soon I come upon a clearing. She is there. The Oracle, in her mossy glory, attended by a handful of loyal otters not wearing any clothing at all.

“Oracle,” I say. Tears are in my eyes. “You’re … OK?”

“Yes,” she says. “And I have good news and bad news this year. Stump Tower will fall. But peace will be slow to return. For the discord is in our hearts, not our politics.”

“If that’s the bad news, the good news must be that the Vikings win the Super Bowl, right?”

“That was the good news. I …. don’t think I’ll tell you about the bad news. You’re not ready.”

“The kicker?” I ask.

“The kicker,” she says.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Jan. 7 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.



  1. Elanne Palcich says

    “For the discord is in our hearts, not our politics.”
    Nothing fake about that. When enough of us start living from a heart space, a tipping point will be reached that carries the rest along.
    That’s one wise Oracle living in the Sax-Zim bog. I hope our future of peace isn’t too far distant.

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