The Oracle

Written for: D. Wallace Peach’s January Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt


If you could ask one question and have it answered with absolute wisdom and total knowledge, what would it be?

That itself was the question that drove The Great Race to the Oracle in 1900. An expedition couched in secrecy and kept quiet ever since – because the answer was too embarrassing.

It all began with the discovery of the oracle itself. An entity who has snoozed since the beginning of time in the farthest reaches of the Antarctic.

In 1899, an expedition to the South Pole drifted haplessly off course and discovered the oracle resting in frozen silence on a wind swept mountain of ice.

Nearby, the expedition found a Rosetta stone written in Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Han Chinese and Mayan.  It explained that the oracle slept for ten thousand years at a time and only awoke to answer a single question with absolute knowledge and total honesty before resuming his slumbers.

His next scheduled appointment with humanity was to be sometime in 1900.

When word got out, the nations of the world rushed to reach the oracle first and be the one to ask their chosen question.

The Vatican dispatched a contingent to settle the matter once and for all, “Does God Exist?”

J. P. Morgan personally accompany the expedition to learn, “How can I get something for nothing?”

Queen Victoria wanted to know, “Will my boy Bertie ever behave?”

And the Freudians raced to ask, “What do women want?”

And so on…


But when the delegations reached the oracle, the seer of all knowledge remained mute on his mountain side, oblivious to their desires. He had slept for ten thousand years and was in no hurry to wake up.

Day after day, the expeditions waited..

Day after day, their supplies dwindled and the weather sapped their strength, draining them of their lust for knowledge.

Then during the deepest depth of the almost endless Antarctic night, the ice encrusted eyes of the oracle cracked open. His hands trembled, triggering an avalanche and sending a deep blue fissure in the ice splintering like frozen lightning toward the camp.

Only one lowly dog musher was there to witness the event. Everyone else lay shivering in restless sleep within their ice crusted tents.

The musher looked up.

The oracle gazed down.

“How’s it going?” the musher asked.

“Fine,” the oracle replied…

…and fell back asleep for another ten thousand years.



H/T to The Tick, a cartoon that my children and I snuggled on the couch to watch and laugh at every Saturday morning.


Author: Almost Iowa

52 thoughts on “The Oracle”

    1. Actually, I am a rather dull person – but my muse is an imp. She’s tried to work with other authors but finally found one who would rather crack jokes than write. Diane prompted me to write about her here

      1. You’re welcome. I knew your story would be a hit. I had a great response to the prompt, Greg. February’s will be quite different, and I’m curious to see what happens. 🙂

  1. That musher sounds like a Minnesota Swede, always the friendly hi before they get down to business. The Oracle sounded like he hadn’t had his morning coffee. After 10,000 years it would need to be STRONG.

    1. It is a Minnesota thing. So is waving ‘hi’ to people on the road…. well, that is more of a rural thing but it became such a reflex that I still do it on I-94 through the Twin Cities. Waving like that can wear you out during rush hour.

  2. Isn’t that the question we always ask first of people? Perhaps we ought to rethink that.

    That was an unexpected zinger ending, just as I’ve come to expect from you. So then does that make it unexpected? I am asking you, not the Oracle.

    1. Whenever anyone asks how I am doing, I tell them. They never ask again.

      So you want to know if we should expect the unexpected? My first impulse is to say, of course – but would that be the wise thing to say? Give me ten thousand years to think about it.

    1. figure out DC for us

      I shudder to think what would happen if the oracle were to be stumped.

      When I went out to take that photo, Scooter and all six barn cats followed me. I always walk with an entourage – but when they started porpoising through the deep snow, I had to turn back, least I lose one of them.

    1. You are welcome, John.

      If you have any existential questions that you need answering, Scooter is waiting somewhere in the frozen depths beyond the bridge (see photo above), ready to respond. Bring a bone.

  3. Ha ha haha ha! This is awesome. I can totally see it happening. Too funny, Greg. Thanks so much for taking up the prompt and giving a great morning laugh. Ha ha ha. Poor humanity.

    1. Some see this as a tragedy, others not so much. The oracle will awake in a mere ten thousand years. Until then, maybe humanity can learn patience. Wouldn’t that be something?

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