flash fiction
January 24, 2021

The Right Question

(or Coin-Operated Oracle, or Pay-Per-Prophecy)

Ask the right question to the Oracle and become rich. That’s the promisse everybody in the slums knew about. And that’s the promise Mary had been holding on to all those years.

She had just made it home after working all day, exhausted but hopeful. It was pay day, which meant she could afford to consult the Oracle. She walked into the living room, looked at the screen hanging on the wall, and considered what to do next.

She knew of somebody in the slums who had hit it big. His name was Bobby. Everybody knew about Bobby and all the money he made thanks to the Oracle.

She sat on the couch considering. She would smoke a cigarette, push back her hunger and check her fortune. Maybe tonight was the night.

She had enough credits for one round.

She was excited at the prospect. She was getting better at it. The last few weeks the Oracle had hinted at changes ahead. It was just a matter of asking the right question.

She sat on the floor inches from the screen. She turned on the box and waited for the receptacle to boot up. She connected to the Ether, and requested a session with the Oracle.

There was some talk of making the Oracle a utility. But she knew better than to hold her breath. The rich could afford to buy most cycles and they kept getting richer and richer. They would never share the Oracle for free.

When the FreeAI logo came up the screen she jumped in excitement. She hand’t thought her question carefully. Maybe she should wait until tomorrow, until she had planned this properly.

Nah. Let’s do it. She had a hunch.

She knew better than to simply ask how to make more money. She took a deep breath and asked her question careful to enunciate properly and be as specific as possible.

“I would like to know… what is it that I can do… to make more money… in my current job… or any other… by legal means… and without sacrificing my mental of physical health… Thank you.”

The FreeAI logo spun while the Oracle consulted the pseudo-infinite database of the Ether. Her heart was beating fast. When the response was ready the screen turned bright blue. The Oracle spoke with emotionless voice.

“> The means of increasing one’s net-worth are several. One effective way coined by the Church of the Eternal Stock Exchange is known as the Investment Creed of Compound Interest. In more detail this is the phenomenon of adding interest to a principal sum of capital. In other words, interest on interest. Example: If you were to reinvest the interest of a million credits rather than paying it out, you would then… <”

The oracle continued its long explanation but Mary had already stopped listening. What good was all this information. She didn’t have a million credits! She had expended all her money for nothing. She should have waited and plan her question better.

Bored and mad with her self, she laid on the couch. She connected to the feed. The first thing that came up was an ad for Oracle Prediction Training.

She thought of Bobby again. He had figured out the right question and made millions. Of course, Mary had tried to get from him what question he had asked but Bobby didn’t want to share with no one. Maybe if she took some training she could figure out what perfect combination of words would make her rich. Like Bobby. Like the rich people who kept getting richer while she kept getting stuck.

She looked at the ad on the screen. It cost 10 credits but she could make that many times over, if she asked the right question. She opened the form and submitted her info.

She would figure it out soon. Like the rich guys did. Like Bobby. She would have her chance too. She would hit jackpot too, and she would keep the question to herself too.

She just had to ask the right question to the Oracle. As simple as that.

January 24, 2021 · #ToF · #Fiction · #Flash Fiction


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