The Oracle Visits Larkan
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Mayor Dobson crawled out of his bed, dipping his feet into fluffy slippers as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. As he did so, a few drizzles of sand fell from between his fingertips, and the Mayor resisted an urge to curse.

“Blast,” He eventually vented, wiping the sand onto the carpet.

“Dear me, someone is a potty mouth today.” A woman entered shortly after holding two mugs.

Mayor Dobson blushed and reached for the mug handed to him. The woman sat beside him and began slurping away at her own mug filled to the brim with tea. Mayor Dobson began sipping from his own mug filled with dark coffee and let out a hearty sigh.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Said Mayor Dobson.

“Well, we can’t have you dozing off. Not today.”

Mayor Dobson turned away, thinking for a moment and quickly ran down the Mayorly chores piling up high. Then, like a spark of thunder illuminating the darkness, it came to him.

“Oh goodness, Jasmine!” He shouted, rising to his feet. “What time is it? My, my, my. We need to check everything!”

Jasmine rolled her eyes and rose to meet Dobson. She took another slurp of her tea and let out a satisfied sigh. Placing a hand on Dobson’s cheek, she smiled.

“Love, you have nothing to worry about, save what you’re going to wear. I went over everything last night whilst you had your meeting with the Fishermen Union regarding Till Bence's disappearance. Oh! Remember that there’ll be pictures, my love.”

Dobson nodded and returned a confident smile. “What would I do without you Jaz.”

Satisfied, Jasmine placed her mug on top of their vanity table and marched towards a walk-in wardrobe. Swiping through the various suits and dresses she shot back a glance towards Mayor Dobson and squinted her eyes.

“Tell me, are you a boy or a girl today?”

Dobson looked over himself as if that would satisfy the question. Reflecting for a moment, shaking his head to and fro, he nodded.

“Man today. And I think I’d like to wear a male shit, tie and blazer and that lovely dress. The one that matches my eyes”

Jasmine nodded and collected a suitable set of clothing, plus the dress that matched Dobson’s eyes, and laid them on top of the bed. Dobson said his thanks as he began dressing whilst Jasmine dressed in a cordial dress with frills so high they ticked her chin. Her greying hair was raised into a proper bun, completing the look in her high opinion. By now Mayor Dobson had gotten dressed, and together Jasmine and Dobson walked downstairs and out the door, collecting an apple each which they quickly scoffed down as they migrated down the streets.

Spacecraft filled the Larkan Spaceport, packed side to side like peas in a pod. Truly, Dobson considered, his bill to expand the docks needed to be put through. True, today was a special day and ordinarily, visitors came to Larkan came in scarce numbers and shrouded their identities as they sought the endless secrets kept here. Yet there were exceptional days like this, where tourism booms and the economy booms and the Sunken Inn needed to pull out stretchers to accommodate the crowd. Yes, the bill must go through.

The Dock Lamp-Lights hovered above, one of Larkan’s 8 Wonders. The dozen or so lights greatly resembled the heads of gigantic street lamps, which floated without any clear means to support them above the ground. They were transparent, with clouds parting tentatively around them regardless of the weather. According to legend, they simply appeared one day and illuminated both the Shipping Docks and Spaceport ever since. Supposedly they were a gift, although the paperwork verifying this was sadly lost by the previous Mayor known for their appetite for paper. Eventually, the couple made it to an empty lot specially reserved for today. Already the area had to be surrounded by armed officers with a metal fence erected around the lot parameter. A crowd was hungrily cheering yet also paradoxically whispering to each other with overly august tones. Taking Jasmine's hand, Mayor Dobson checked his watch and took a deep and heavy breath. Just in time.

A large, egg-shaped craft descended from the sky, silently unveiling a set of legs as it settled into place. Its surface was smooth, pale and unblemished from its travels. The crowd held its breath. A cloud of vaporous smoke jettisoned from out the craft as its door creaked open. As the smoke died down the occupant of the craft crept calmy from the vehicle. The crowd said nothing. Flourdring, Dobson approached the vehicle and extended out a helpful hand. The craft occupant took it and then walked with Dobson back towards Jasmine. The figure was gangly, with orange skin and a massive set of hair tied into a tall, towering point. With one hand softly holding Dobson’s, it left her three other hands free to drift and float about as if grasping at unseen threads ensnaring the air, yet her face remained transfixed on the horizon. Dobson briefly considered how one could see with such a thick and large fringe covering their eyes, but then realised whom he was present with. The crowd went wild.

“How were your travels, my lady of the mind? Smooth I hope,” said Dobson, speaking over the roaring crowd.

“They went as expected, Mayor Dobson,” The Oracle replied with a bright smile.

“Ah, good? Very good.”

The pair stopped beside Jasmine, who bowed respectfully as the Oracle paused before her. The Oracle leaned in and placed a kiss on Jasmine’s cheek. Jasmine reciprocated the gesture. The Oracle did not walk and instead hovered a quarter of a meter above the ground. She had no legs, and instead, her waist descended into a strange singular appendage. It was rather like a mermaid’s tail, although finless and far shorter than any real mermaid. Around her was a creaseless and sleeveless dress. It was the same shade of brown as her hair, and the dress tightly covered her flesh, even her tail-like lower half. It almost seemed like a second skin, and for all anybody knew, it possibly was.

“This is Miss Dobson, as she’s known to the public. Is customary amongst our people to hide the names of the current Mayor’s spouse. We erase it from Larkan itself!”

“We are incredibly thankful that you’ve come to visit us, my lady,” said Jasmine.

“Hmph?” The Oracle replied, gazing dreamily around the Spaceport.

The Oracle glanced at the glowing lights above her and curiously waved at them.

“Oh yes, yes of course Jasmine,” The Oracle suddenly replied. “I enjoy visiting strange places. I like the water as well.”

The Oracle gestured widely towards the ocean and then turned back towards Jasmine with a satisfied grin.

Jasmine gawked, sputtering violently before she controlled herself. Her name was erased from all public thought and even her family for the sake of her safety and now it had simply been thrown out for anyone to hear! Jasmine made a few mad glances around her, steadily assured that someone was lurking to hear her sacred name.

Four armed officers marched towards the trio and preceded to escort them towards the Town Hall. Along the way, the Oracle simply observed and hazily absorbed her surroundings. What small talk there was short and simple. It wasn’t that the Oracle was rude, Dobson evaluated, but simply that she wasn’t fully present with her surroundings. Further fencing had been set strategically around the town, creating a safe path for the Oracle across the main street of Larkan. People threw confetti and popcorn towards the Oracle, who occasionally grabbed a handful of the offers, regardless of it being confetti or popcorn, and scoffed it down.

“Your child will be a Serpentine Slug who writes beautiful poetry,” She declared to one gracious, pregnant mother.

“You will find yourself next month when you least expect it,” She told a Ghost who was murdered and buried in an unmarked grave.

“Your Empire will be swallowed by the last whale,” She told Blood-Oak, Dictator King of the Seven Skulls. He crumpled in place and began sobbing.

More and more declarations came as they moved into the Town Hall. Truly the hall wasn’t large enough for such an august occasion. The juniors used this as a drama centre in the winter, for Pete's sake! Still, the team at Larkan had done their best. A mat had been set upon the small stage inside, and a shining sequin curtain had been hung across the back wall of the stage. To add a regal touch, a red carpet had been rolled out from the doors of the centre towards the stage.

“Here we are, ma’am,” announced Mayor Dobson. “Everything has been set and prepared to the best of our abilities. Of course, it’s not as grand as many of your previous forays but I hope you can appreciate the effort.”

“Nothing is grand compared to the eternity of time,” The Oracle said, cheerily, if distant.

The Oracle moved up towards the stage and knelt down on the mat set for her. Wriggling in the place for a moment, feeling the mat as she shifted to and froe, she scowled until suddenly she smiled as she settled in place.

“Is there anything we can do for you?” Said Jasmine.

The Oracle politely fanned her words away.

“I will get started. Please, let the people in!”

Mayor Dobson nodded and exchanged a look with Jasmine. This is it. Together they left the Oracle and stepped outside. A lengthy cue was spread across town, all the way through the main streets, and all the way into the docks. Already shop vendors had set up stalls and began pushing their wares to the hungry crowd. An officer approached Dobson and handed him a megaphone. Already cameras began to flash and flicker across his vision.

“We would like to welcome you all to Larkan! Home to Secrets and all Sorts…” He drifted off, the crowd still roaring and cheering. “We are incredibly blessed to have been visited by the Oracle, and would like you to give her a warm welcome!”

The crowd clapped, cheered and sang out to the world. Slightly distressed by the singing, Dobson stared at the ocean settled on the horizon. Biting his lip, he let it by and continued to smile at the crowd.

“You will only be allowed in one at a time, lest your situation or physiology prevents it. Remember to be cordial and polite! The Oracle has travelled a long way to get here, so let’s make sure we make it worth the trip!”

The crowd was raging now, and quickly the proceedings began. One by one people entered and left. Some were happy, others distressed and some resolved to feel nothing and remained completely vacant. There were those who went mad and others who were simply confused or surprised. Bit by bit the crowd moved, but it did not shrink even as the day stretched on. Eventually, Dobson and Jasmine retired from the crown into the backroom of a nearby cafe. The owner had set up a makeshift table for them out of a few milk crates since the main floor was overwhelmed with people, and the two needed privacy. It was fine and understandable, besides there was something a little exciting about the small setup.

Jasmine was preparing another teapot for herself while Dobson sipped on a hot chocolate, despite his diet. With a spoon, he stirred it and then watched it spin over and over again. He took another sip.

“Do you think she’ll be impressed with how things are gone,” said Dobson.

“To be honest, I’m not sure if she can be impressed. I mean, surprised, if you follow me”

Dobson nodded, almost sympathetically as he sloshed some hot chocolate around in his mouth.

“Terrible way to live, if you ask me,” He said.

Jasmine nodded in return but said nothing more as she slurped from her teacup and then proceed to top it up with more tea.

“Do you think this is bad for business?” She began, before biting her lip.

“How do you mean?”

“Well,” Jasmine set her teacup aside. “We’re a town that relies heavily on people seeking answers, or questions or any of that fluff. That oracle is rather infamous in this area, my love.”

Dobson leaned in close. “In what way Jaz?”

“Oracles aren’t supposed to tell the future. They’re supposed to give you a fortune and send you on your way. At most, they foresee or predict it.”

Dobson stared at her, almost vacantly as he went over her words.

“I’m not seeing the distinction, my sweet.”

Jasmine rolled her eyes, not at her partner but rather at the struggle to explain herself. She returned to her tea and began swallowing it irritably.

“This Oracle has been known to simply state the future. Like rolling off memory, or simply stating what's over yonder. It’s why she’s popular with the non-abnormally inclined. It’s almost…I don’t know how to place it, my love.”

Dobson drew his chair next to Jasmine and calmly he stroked her back and smiled.

“Maybe,” Jasmine continued steadily. “It’s how it removes the magic of it all. A fortune gives everything meaning. If the future is simply the past, where’s the fun?”

Jasmine turned expectantly to see if her point landed. It didn’t, but nonetheless, Dobson hugged her and sighed understandingly.

“She’ll only be here for the long weekend and will be off come Tyr’s Day Morning. Let’s just remain satisfied that tourism is at a high and the town’s income is strong.”

Jasmine made an effort to smile, although fraught with a spring-like tension to snap into a painful grimace at any moment. She warped an arm around her lover and together they shared a long pause of wonderful, warm silence. Slowly they turned to face each other and simply kissed and all was good in that tiny backroom.

The long weekend came and went quicker than expected. The crowds had tied down and foot traffic lulled back into its sleepy pace. The morning was crisp as Dobson, dressed in fine silk robes, entered the Town Hall. The Oracle was sitting there patiently, as if expecting another question for her, until rising suddenly as if she only now recognised Dobson. She bowed and smiled at him.

“Thank you for your hospitality, Mayor Dobson. I apologise for disturbing Miss Dobson. I foresaw the name and spoke it as that is what would happen.”

Dobson grimaced but nodded to imply his understanding.

“But of course, Oracle. Thing’s are often beyond anything but your own comprehension,” He said.

Behind the Oracle was a mountain of gifts and offerings, many of which were wrapped in unopened, decorative boxes. She descended from the steps, ignoring the items completely as she came to a stop beside Dobson.

“My lady, would you like me to send for someone to help take this to your ship?”

“Hmph? No, that’s alright. Give them to the town’s folk. A gift to me, now a gift for you,” The Oracle replied, swinging her arms side to side in a little stiff dance.

Dobson thanked the Oracle for the gift, yet it rosed a strange oddness in his senses that couldn’t quite be placed. Four officers joined them and together they marched back towards the docks. The Oracle moved more fluidly than she had before, seemingly liberated from her duty. She twirled and spun as they pressed on. Occasionally she’d stop and fall silent, staring at any small thing that snagged her meandering interest before resuming whatever odd jig had possessed her. Dobson smiled, watching a deep and raw joy he’d rarely seen before. In an almost condescending way, which brought him a bit of shame, it was like seeing an infant laugh and giggle for the first time.

He said nothing as they walked, although the Oracle said much about the sky and the dirt road they marched across. She spat out odd facts about the dirt like its history and what it had once been eons ago. Supposedly a mountain, although the Sharpen Academy would disagree. Eventually, they stood before the egg-shaped spacecraft that the Oracle came in. It was also then a painful stiffness overcame the Oracle, enough to stir an officer to reach out for her. Convulsing violently and gripping her jaw down tight with her teeth in a maverick attempt to resist an almost primordial urge, the Oracle drew back her fringe and faced the nearby officer. A painful orange glow engulfed the officer, and all four arms of the Oracle latched onto them and drew them to her eye level. The other officers instinctively reached for their guns but Dobsom madly waved them down. They would not gun down the gem of the cosmos, not in Larkan! Meanwhile, the officer caught in the Oracle's grip gaped into the brilliant glow of the Oracle’s vision and began weeping. The others calmed in sheer awe of simply that! Jace was the officer's name, and she was a raw unit of internal strength. Broke her ribs in an unfortunate water-skiing accident and still, she kept her icy cool. Now she began to wail as slowly the Oracle released her and rose her arms skyward.

“Murder will consume Larkan in times to come. Watch your backs, watch your own hands too. This will not be elaborated on! Now behold!” The Oracle cried out in despair and shielded her eyes.

Behind her, the egg-shaped vehicle exploded in a brilliant flash of light! Yet, no sound came to form the brilliant display. Within seconds it was disintegrated with barely a trace left to mark its existence. All but her fell onto their knees and shielded their eyes from the glows brilliant light before that too faded.

“An attempted assimilation. People don’t like their future. Do not worry, they won’t harm you.”

All was quiet, and the Oracle drew herself upon Jace and embraced her.

“Jace, you who have know nothing but the pain will release it for the world to see. Vent what you can, and ultimately you will find the harm committed by your family soothed but never healed.”

She released Jace, who passed out before her head hit the floor. She stared at the rest of the crowd, their faces illuminated by the constant orange light of the Oracle’s vision. However, she lingered upon Mayor Dobson with an eerie, glazed stare. The stiffness suddenly evaporated from her body and immediately she drew her heavy fringe over her eyes. Dreamily she rose and gave each officer a gentle kiss, methodology making it obvious that she excluded Dobson. Slowly she approached another spacecraft and typed in its access code and began to walk up the boarding ramp that unfolded from underneath it.

“Ma’am, that’s not your property,” Dobson began weakly.

“The owner, Till Bence, died about a week ago. He swam out to sea on a drunken dare and was eaten by Mermaids. His friends will confess if pressed on the matter. His family are all dead, and this ship will be scraped because of its condition.”

The Oracle then spun around and entered the vehicle.

“My twin,” he heard her mutter. “I foresee you, but I do not understand…”

The rickety thing sputtered and panted as it slowly rose up and up and fired on into the cosmos ahead. Now there was just silence pouring over Larkan.

“Well, that’s where Tilly went,” Dobson said after a long, deathly pause.

Jasmine sat inside the Sunken Inn late that night. Dobson was busy with paperwork and sorting rumours of a ship vanishing in a flash of white light. Stupid stuff, in her opinion. She felt almost regal as she drank some rich wine and chatted quietly with the community. Hardly anyone felt like talking this evening, at least not loudly, and to be frank, neither did she. The display of simply sitting close to others satisfied the simple urge to interact. She stared vacantly around the room, holding her breath and waiting.

But for what?

It was late, and she ought to have returned home, but instead felt glued to her seat transfixed by silence. It was then a strange-looking boy entered the room, and Jasmine curled into her seat, her eyes wide with an unknown dread. Larkan was silent today and, perhaps, it might stay that way.

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