We called it the Murder Swamp. Everyone in town did. We’d learned it from our older sisters and bad uncles and from our parents, who wagged stern fingers in our faces and warned us that under no circumstances should we play in that place.
We didn’t listen. Their warnings only made us bold enough to explore every decaying log and suspicious dark thicket that place had to offer.
Every so often, capering deep in the Murder Swamp, some lucky duck would stumble across a human head mushrooming up from a clump of switchgrass. They’d shout Ollie Ollie Oxen Free and bring everyone within earshot running. By the time the last of us arrived, breathless and muck-splattered, whoever had found the head would have already twisted it free from its pulpy stem and cleared the earth from its mouth. We’d all stand in a circle and take turns holding it up to our ears, listening to its soft murmurs of our futures. Redheads could tell you about love. Dimpled heads knew birthday secrets. Heads with long eyelashes predicted cavities. A Roman nose meant warnings of small dangers and minor calamities.
Understand that those were the exceptions. Most heads weren’t really all that psychic and never knew too much about what was coming. Sometimes though, they knew enough.