The skinny old woman was wearing a worn black cloth faintly reminding of a robe. She had left the village ages ago to live in a cave by the sea. Some said she used to be a fisherman’s wife but after he died in a big storm she decided that gods owed her big time and so, she called herself a Sea God Expert, the Best Prophetess Ever Lived and started foretelling the future by interpreting sea signs. If for example you caught an octopus with nine legs and had nothing better to do, you’d run straight to her cave to find out if this meant extra money, good luck or even a bride. Everything was an omen or a godly sign according to her.
Once in a while this prophetess turned up in the street market and like Cassandra, she warned people of biblical disasters, storms and huge waves. And just like with Cassandra, people were very annoyed by her words because whether you were a prophetess or not, no matter if the gods were angry or happy, you knew that sometime soon they were going to throw another big storm, an earthquake or hailstones on you. Why give her credit for shouting in your ears bad news all the time?
How would she like it if you shouted to her ears that she would die someday soon? And then expect everyone to be very impressed by your prophetic powers; and all that during her funeral?
Of course sometimes she really impressed people. Not for her prophetic powers, though; it was mainly about the imagination of he prophecies. “Beware” she had cried one day. “The God Of Oysters is furious at you. You are murdering his children every day. I’m telling you this: throw all the pearls back to the sea now! Don't you know what an oyster has to suffer to become a pearl? Don't you? It takes years of prayers and faith and true regret to become a big shinny pearl. It’s the way the God Of Oysters shows he has forgiven all their oyster sins; by letting them transform into a beautiful pearl. Who are you to ruin that? Hailstones, the pearls of the sky, are on the way! The God Of Oysters is seeking revenge! You can’t just steal his pearls and make necklaces! It’s like… it’s like killing the virgin before the sacrifice! It is… it is… hybris!
However, all her predictions were of bad things to come. There wasn’t one good thing ever predicted by this woman’s lips and that’s why most didn’t really like her. She, on the other hand, when she saw sour faces she got mad and told them they would all thank her one day because “true scientists like prophetesses, witches, philosophers and priestesses don’t have to be popular too; their primal goal is to save their lives”. Their own lives she meant but she could use some popularity.
The market was full of people but her voice was very loud that day. Some laughed, some gathered to enjoy the show. She used to have a small bag around her neck with several seashells in it, which she used to throw in the air and then tell the future by the forms they took after falling on the sand. If for example, the seashells formed something like a circle this meant that someday from now in a year that contains a zero (that could be in 10, 20, 100 or 1000 years) the God Of Cetaceans* would sink the whole village unless they sacrificed a child. Then the crowd would laugh and scatter around the street shops leaving her alone to shout of calamities until she was exhausted.
She said the magic words, raised her hands and threw all the seashells as high as she could. People stepped back. When the seashells fell on the sand, it was obvious they formed the image of something like a snake.
Some couldn’t wait and started to guess:
- God Of Witch Eels! Oh wait, wait! It seems to glow a bit in the sun. Ok, I got it. It’s the God Of Electric Eels. That’s him sending the Sign.
- No, it glows too much. It’s The God Of Fire Eels. Definitely him.
- Oh, stop it! Don’t you see the space between those seashells? They are meant to be stripes. It is for sure The God Of Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait.
- No, can't you see? This is bigger. It must be The God Of Hydrophis Spyralis. Take a good look at my wooden foot; believe me I know how it looks from that close.
The old prophetess stepped forward and started to push people away from her seashells.
- Excuse me! Will you let me do my job? Please, don’t touch anything; you will ruin the evidence. Step back!
She went nearer, gave the shells a closer look, raised her hands and said:
- Well, it could be any of the gods you’ve already mentioned of course and you are right that it had to be a God of the Sea Snake Family but I’m afraid you are not yet aware of all the… unpleasant facts.
- What happened?
- Facts? What facts?
You see yesterday night while I was lying on the beach trying to relax from all those stupid Sirens singing all day, a young merman approached me. He was so handsome that if I wasn’t a scientist with such serious stuffs to handle, I would say yes to his proposal and become his immortal young wife. But the duty goes first! Anyway, he told me that Poseidon’s trident is about to struck our land. I asked him again and again but he swore he told me the truth. Poseidon himself, the God Of Sea Gods, Of All Fishes, Big Waves, Corals, Rocks, Seaweed And Sand, but mainly the God Of Earthquakes, is coming for us!
- Ok. I’ve had it. Someone call the police NOW!
- Yeah! We can’t let her keep scaring women and children like that!
- Good idea! It was about time. Take her to prison!
A big light drove their attention. It was like a cloud or a crystal ball just over the sea. A few seconds later, Poseidon rose from the dark waters and struck fiercely their land with his trident. A very few survived such an earthquake to tell this tale and among them the now younger and immortal prophetess.
And I’ll tell you one thing for sure: I was well respected after that. Oh, and another thing: Mermans are misunderstood. Take it from me, they rock.
*When the seashells formed a circle, everybody knew it would definitely be the God Of Cetaceans. You could easily tell which god would cause trouble this time. When the fish shells formed a line it was the God Of Eels, a bigger line was the God Of Witch Eels, a triangle was the God Of Angel Fish, a big triangle was the God Of Angel Sharks and when they formed nothing (or none could make a decision anyway) it had to be the God Of Plankton; pretty harmless fellow.