Anxiety in store for 2024

PHOTO: Adapted from screenshot of YouTube video by Mako

The text message comes from my childhood phone number. How? First of all, no one *texts* from a land line in the Sax-Zim Bog. That’s just not possible. Second, what are the chances someone with our old number would want to text me?

“Time for a Zoom?” reads the message. There’s a link. 

Against my better judgment, I click the link to enter the meeting. Someone named “Otter” joins the video conference. Suddenly, I realize what’s happening. Every January, the otter minion of the Oracle of the Sax-Zim Bog visits me. He escorts me to the Oracle’s swampy lair to receive her predictions for the upcoming year. And now the otter is on my screen. His coffee mug reads, “Eeeeeeeee!”

“Why didn’t you come see me in person?” I ask. 

“You on mute,” says the otter.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Let’s see, click Unmute. Got it. Can you hear me?”

“Me hear you now,” he says. “No time for small talk. Click to allow screen share.”

“Why would I need to do that? It’s your meeting.” 

“There new updates in software. Just click.”

As soon as I click “Allow” the semiaquatic mustelid leaps through the screen and grips his entire fish-scented body onto my face.

“Careful what you click on internet,” he says, and somehow he drags me back through the very same screen.

The experience is shocking, but I immediately recognize my surroundings. I’m in the sod hut of the seer herself. 

“You no wear pants?” croaks the otter, incredulously.

“It was a Zoom!” I retort, somewhat defensively. 

“Pants are overrated,” larks a familiar female voice. It is the Oracle of the Sax-Zim Bog.

“Oracle!” I exclaim. “2024 already seems weird and it just started. What’s in store?”

“Regional ambulance districts will form to address the emergency medical service crisis. A taconite plant will begin a three-year shutdown plan. An exciting new technological development will start on the Iron Range. Travis Kelce will be traded to the Vikings, causing Taylor Swift to break up with him. The Minnesota Timberwolves will maul the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals, further infuriating concerned deer hunters.”

“Wow, that’s a lot. Some of those don’t sound very serious, though.” 

“You’ve got to have fun in this job. You’ll see. Speaking of that, it’s time for me to go. I have completed my 3,000-year cycle as Oracle of the Sax-Zim Bog.” 

“Can’t you just go for another 3,000 years?” I ask.

“Term limits,” she replies.

“So, what next?”

“Not sure. Lobbying, I guess. But first, I have to chant the spell bestowing my powers onto the next Oracle.

“Who will that be?” I ask.

She plops an ancient leather-bound text onto the table and tips open the massive tome. She looks at me and smiles.

“Töframaðr,” she says.

Suddenly I am bathed in white luminosity, like a glint of sunlight on a rippling summer lake repeated over centuries, agglomerated into one glowing singularity.

“Do you see the light?” she asks.

“I am the light,” I gasp.

“Good, then it is finished.”

The Oracle closes the tome with a thump, extinguishing the light. Before my eyes fully adjust, she crumbles like a sand castle. Her green gown turns brown and curls up like an autumn ash leaf. By the time I cross the room she is compost. Good compost. I scrape her into a coffee can and mark the lid “Oracle.”

I feel good about next year’s garden. But I already miss my friend. My dreams overflow with strange visions. Sometimes on sleepless nights I look out the window to see the glowing eyes of the otter who waits patiently behind my compost pile at the edge of the woods.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.


  1. joe musich says

    So Wolves Bucks and Magic. Otterly ridiculous. HaHaHa thanks

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