Oracle

November, 2017

The reed raft had seemed a speck on the horizon not a moment ago, but here you were, bobbing in the current at the fork and there she was, reaching for you from the massive nest of shredded rags and shorn hair and teeth. She smiled and it stretched her face from breast to brow, sharp teeth at her temples. The bile climbed from the pit of your belly and boiled through your throat but you choked it back down with a great, heaving gasp of cold air.

She threaded one fat gray lock of hair after another through her knotted knuckles and chuckled, flinging flecks of yellow spittle. One crooked finger curled so very slowly. At the bow, the ferryman leaned upon his oar, slumping those skeletal shoulders when her eyes flickered between you.

 

"Your fortune?" Her fingers grazed the wet knucklebones piled upon her knobby knees. If you squinted, you could easily spot the fatty film that still coated them. She sucked one beneath her cracked lips and grinned.

"Left or right," she crooned around the curve of the bloody bone, "no difference. Your wife is gone. You will die here."

 

The ferryman shrugged, a great clatter of clacking ivory limbs and iron joints. He turned the boat to the right and dug in deep, eager to be on your way. When you turned to thank her for her time, her raft was but a distant ring of light on the water.

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