Furs and Ice
By Josh Vogt
All futures hide in the clouds, Father told him. Trap the sky beneath your feet, and walk what must come.
As Omen trudges onto the frozen lake, he scratches at the wolf pelts cloaking him. Oracles always wear stinking furs.
Such is our way, Father said.
Omen hates stinking furs. He smells the rancid unguent Father drank each morning, trying to ward off the bleeding cough. Its stench tainted the old oracle’s breath, his bowels, the hide walls of their hut. Now it follows like Father’s ghost, come to see the son’s first foretelling.
He reaches the middle of the lake and stands amidst the gray reflections of cloud and twig and crag. Omen stomps. Ice shrieks. Its polish shatters into a maze of cracks. The reflections within no longer move, trapped for his scrutiny. Trapped, just as he is. Forever an oracle, wearing the stinking furs of a babbler.
Omen’s feet are numbing. Skin sticks to the ice as he steps towards shore. He hunches, looking for signs to convey.
There, branches knot in a telling of early summer. Beside this, a rounded cliff predicts many births within the tribe. A step further—
Omen stops. Stares at the next frozen vision. A bird’s spread wings reveal a chance for freedom, offered to those with the strength to grasp it.
The future within the ice groans for release.
He raises his foot for another stomp. It will be a bitter swim to shore, but faster once he sheds the furs.