In one section of the woods, the trees began to burn
with messages. The townspeople took it for fire,
at first, but when the little Thornton girl grabbed for the light
and pulled her hand out, unscathed, they knew
that this light didn’t consume what it touched.
It was decided that this was an Oracle. After all,
the light flashed enormous letters through the trees,
one after another, as if sprung from an invisible giant’s hand.
In shifts, the townspeople gathered near the Oracle,
transcribing the letters as they came onto a computer.
The Oracle was undaunted by weather. Through rain,
letters blazed, and snow stuck to light for only an instant
before vanishing. And though they kept recording the letters,
making sense of the Oracle’s words was problematic.
They could not agree on where to break the light into words.
Sometimes the Oracle shone characters they had never
seen. Others, the transcribers disagreed on the letter.
There were discrepancies among the texts, and after a number
of townspeople complained of headaches and blurred vision,
it was determined that prolonged exposure to the Oracle
damaged eyesight, who knew how permanently.
They kept coming to stare at the Oracle, but stopped
putting its letters into a computer. A woman packed up the equipment,
and a man watched her, her face translucent and lineless
in the glow. Janie Thornton, will you marry me? he asked.
More and more frequently, the letters don’t belong
to our alphabet. Or any on record. The light never
flickers, never goes out. The townspeople visit the radiance in the woods,
and the older ones can’t shake the habit of staring
into the light, waiting for a word that they’ll know.