It was a prophecy without a year attached. There was no target date, no decree that it would be on the year that came so many decades, years, and months after the date in which it was first voiced. It seemed strange that there would be no date, until you think about prophecies. Rarely to do they give an exact date. Famous prophetic figures, be they religious or secular, rarely gave exact dates in which their particular prophecy would come to be. Short term prophecies might take a stab at an exact date, but such prophets are rarely to be considered among the truly great. Once, Sir Emphante gathered the towns people near to him and told them of a great event that would happen. He said it would involve lots of celebration and triumphant exuberance, and he said that the people would revel in the event and it would be amongst the greatest spectacles that anyone had ever witnessed. Of course, the people were excited by this, and they urged him with great shouts to tell when they might expect this joyous event. Would it be in their time? In their children’s time? Or would it be many generations from now, for some descendants yet to come?
When Emphante finally gave in and told them that this great event was to happen tomorrow, and that it was to be his birthday party, the people were less than impressed. See, true prophecies only carry weight when they occur at a far distance from the present. That’s why, when Emphante gathered the towns people near to him again, some days after his birthday party that no one attended because they had felt betrayed by his self serving announcement, no one knew what to expect. One man suggested to his wife that the next prophecy would be no greater than if he had announced that in the morning, a great shining orb would appear in the Eastern sky. This prophet was shuffling over very thin ice, and he had but one chance to prove his prowess. As he lowered his voice to deliver this, the newest vision, there was little attention paid. Boys played kick the rock on the edges of the town square, women whispered to each other, their hands over their mouths, men laughed the robust laughs that men of the time had a tendency to laugh.
There would be a time, Emphante said, when trees would bear no leaves. When this would happen, he furthered, would be during a spring that followed a winter unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. He said that people would exclaim that the winter wasn’t that bad, compared to winters that they had experienced earlier in their long lives, but he said that these people would be wrong. The winter, he went on, would be long and cold, and many would die from the cold, or the snow, and some would die from both. He said the winter would cling on and on, and when it was almost over it would go on still some more. He said that the winter would be the winter from hell, except that hell was hot and this winter would be so very cold. He said we knew what he meant, and we did.
The promise of a thick and heavy winter was not, in and of itself, much of a prophecy. People told him this, and the crowd grew restless by the unimportance of the moment. Emphante went on. He said that it wasn’t the winter that was the thing, it was the spring that followed. It was that nature herself would stall, and the world would spin in place, with neither spring or summer nor fall nor winter able to grip those days. The weather, he said, would turn gray and dark, and though the sun would rise and set, it would take great faith to know that it was, indeed, somewhere behind those low clouds. He said that the trees would not give their leaves, and the natural things that naturally occur in the spring would never come to be. Trees would bear no leaves, flowers would host no petals, and spring would never turn to summer.
By now, his voice was low and hushed, and the people listened intently for what he would say next. They implored him again to learn when this might happen. If it was to happen soon, they would need to prepare, to gather extra wood for burning and extra food to last the long winter and into the barren spring. They would need some warning, they told him. But there would be none, he said, for this day would come when the world was concerned about the heat, and it would be the cold that would consume them. Then, he told them of another great event that would fill their bellies with life and their cups with drink, and that would happen soon. Very soon. But everyone knew he just meant that it was almost dinner time.