The plump official on the snow-dusted platform looks just like the guy in the Bill Murray movie. He’s wearing a black top hat and long black coat, and he unwraps a scrolled proclamation.
Other long-coated officials flank their leader on either side.
“Punxsutawney Phil was awakened at approximately 7:15 a.m. by his handlers,” the official reads from the scroll. “He will soon join you here, his faithful followers, to offer his long-trusted weather prediction.”
The language becomes more formal with the next part, as if quoting from an unrhymed poem. “If his shadow he sees, he scampers scared, back into his burrow, and we will suffer six more weeks of winter. But if no shadow greets his sight, we can be sure Spring is just around the corner.”
A wide, severed tree trunk occupies the middle section of the platform. An arch with two closed doors appears at the bottom of the trunk, and a sign above the arch declares the celebrated animal’s name.
“Call for him,” the official says. “Call for Phil.”
Patches of snow have been cleared away on a red carpet that leads from the archway. With a mechanical whir, the small doors begin to fan open.
The interior is pitch dark. The doors continue to whir.
The flash of two rodent eyes appear. Phil’s head peeks out of the entrance.
On the cleared red carpet, the animal spies the shadow of his head and furry shoulders. Immediately, the head pops back into the dark opening, and the double doors slam shut.
“Bundle up for six more weeks of cold,” the official says. “If you’d prefer a different outcome, press the appropriate button.”
If only life worked that way. If only you could redo events with the push of a different button.
Two options appeared on the railing: one labeled “Shadow,” and one labeled “No Shadow.”
It wouldn’t matter. The weather outside the museum would remain the same. You would still be cold and sick. You would still be hungry.
But you press the “No Shadow” button anyway. It feels nice to hear another human voice again, after all this time.
With a click and a whir, the automaton again unwraps his scrolled proclamation.