Prophecy Collector comes from last week's prompt, The Ironist, exercise 029 in The 3 AM Epiphany. This exercise encourages the author to play around with an unreliable narrator. The trick, however, is that this narrator knows more than she or he is letting on. The result is a twisted fairy tale told from the wry perspective of mantis bureaucrat Jacara Landfair Prentiss.
The image is from artofantasy.tumblr.com. I am trying to find and thank the artist for inspiration.
by Celeste Hollister
Word Count: 796
Safe for work
My name is Jacara Landfair Prentiss. I sit at a desk, and I listen. That's my job. Listening. It's not up to me to interpret events.
Yes. Technically, my title is Prophecy Collector. I collect them and pass them Upstairs if they're worthy. Most of them are a bunch of 'woe-be-unto-earth' nonsense. Those I weed right out. On an average day, I'll hear half a dozen fuzzy forecasts from divining dragonflies and prognosticating pill bugs. But to receive a true revelation, an actual bonafide auguration, that is a rare thing.
In fact, in all my years at this desk, beneath the watchful compound eyes of Mother Moth, I have only seen it three times.
The first was the Prophecy of the Flood, and we all know how that turned out. Of course, that office is thirty meters beneath new sea level, so I suppose 'desk' in this case describes the job itself, and not the actual object. Haha, you catch my meaning, right? The juxtaposition of the desk as a symbol... Oh, right. Of course.
Would you like a morsel of mushroom while you're waiting? Tea leaf? No? Very well. Where was I?
Oh yes. The second. That was the Oracular Divination of the Bee Decimation. What a tizzy we were in over that one. I hear humankind went bonkers, but down here, we were more concerned with who would fill the niche. The moths lobbied for the job, but is was argued they were inadequately suited, given their nocturnal proclivities. Then the horseflies put in their bid, but can you imagine? Always playing about. Horseflies taking over for bees? Huh. I think not.
In the end, the contract went to the yellowjackets. Pity. Brutal blighters, the lot of them. Nonetheless, time went on and so did we. The insect kingdom adapts. It's what we do.
Maybe that's why I dismissed Miss Mouse. I don't go in for mammalians in general. Too hot-blooded for my taste.
And she was a pretty thing, too. Smooth and gray, with eyes like black water beetles. She wore a circlet of silver upon her nimble little head. Two pale pink ears poked up from beneath that delicate crown. I should have known, really...
Anyway, she fairly swept in, long whiskers twitching. “Please,” she said. “I must see the Weavers. It is a matter of life and death.”
I leaned upon my bent elbows and tsked. “My dear, you'll have to do better than that,” I said. “In this business, everything is a matter of life and death.”
Yes, I did say it exactly like that. As I told you, I dismissed her as a mouse. Well, you weren't here, were you. May I proceed?
Very well. She said, “I was not always a mouse. I was a girl, until two nights ago. I went to a wishing pool at midnight when the full moon reflected in its surface, and there I made a wish.”
I told her, “This is Prophecy Collection, Miss, not Wish Fulfillment. You'll find that department on the third floor.”
She went on as if she hadn't heard me. She said, “A fairy appeared and granted my wish. She gave me a flowing white gown and slippers made of snow.”
I know, I know. I thought glass as well, but she said snow.
The mouse went on. “The fairy told me I must return to the pool by midnight or I would return to my original form.”
She stared up at me then, her black eyes sparkling.
“You didn't make it back to the pool by midnight,” I said.
“No,” she said. “I did not.”
I leafed through the files on my desk. I thought wistfully of my home and my bed and the corpse of my last husband resting by the hearth.
I said, “If you don't have a prophecy, I'm afraid I cannot help you.”
She said, “Not a prophecy so much as a promise. For it is well-known that the Weavers serve the Fates and they should know, when I am restored, I am coming for them. Their curse made me their servant girl, and now I remember every vile thing they made me do.”
Yes, that is word for word what she said. I wrote it down. I stamped it. I sent it Upstairs.
No, I haven't a clue where she might have gone. She didn't exactly leave a forwarding address. My job is to sit at my desk and listen, which I've done. It's not up to me to interpret or judge. Now, pray excuse me. You've got your many hands full, and I've a new husband to behead.
Good day and good luck. You're going to need it.