This is my contribution to the Flash Fiction Challenge initiated by Chuck Wendig. I chose Prompt #1. A German version will be added soon.
Mein Beitrag zur Flash Fiction Challenge von Chuck Wendig, inspiriert von Bild 1. Eine deutsche Fassung folgt demnächst.
If We Returned
Facing the unseeing eyes of the oracle, I shivered. The artificial intelligence that was supposed to know every answer to every question in the world did not look like anything IT at all. Most of all, it might have been a ritual mask of some long forgotten tribe. The holographic projection appeared almost like a physical object, an oversize origami made of some sort of paper.
The unseeing eyes, more empty hollows than real eyes, seemed to pierce me with their non-look.
I didn‘t actually hear the word. There was nothing to listen to in the thundering silence of the oracle hall. I felt the word inside my body, inside my brain, reaching down each nerve and reverberating in every single cell. Though there was no acoustic quality to it, the word felt both male and female at the same time. Or maybe none of the two.
I hesitated, waiting for the word to finish its echoing throughout my body. I felt a little stupid, I, a grown man, married, father of two, consulting an oracle like a giggling teenager at a country fair. But mine was the question that mattered most. I wondered if others had come here and asked the same question before me. They should have, certainly, wasn‘t it the single most important question of the time? Of all times, maybe?
The pink and blue halves of the oracle‘s head before me, pale when I entered, seemed to grow more intense, urging me to speak.
„How can we stop climate change?“, I ventured.
The blue half of the face turned darker. „Not at all. You know all there is to know. Yet you choose to do nothing.“ I felt the answer through my whole body, filling my entire existence. The unspoken words had lost all ambiguity, as if they had shedded their female aspect, leaving only the male.
Still trying to digest the answer, I sensed more words coming. „Wait.“ The rose-red half seemed to glow warmly, sadly.“There is one thing you have to understand, all of you. That may be your only chance: You return.“
Again, I felt the answer seeping from my brain through my body, reaching deeply into every little cell. Before I could ask „Return? As in being reborn?“, the rosy and blue colours faded, until the projection collapsed and lights came on.
I walked home under the weight of the scorching heat of this day in early May. Dry leaves rustled under my feet. There was a hint of smoke in the air, as most of the time, but closer today. Wildfire season had come early this year.
Rebirth? If we knew we returned, would that change any of our behavior? But reincarnation was just a spiritual concept. I wasn‘t very much into spiritualism of any kind.
Still pondering the oracle‘s answer, I reached my house and opened the door. My kids came to meet me. „Hey Dad, ...“, my daughter began. „... where have you been?“, her twin brother added, one completing the other‘s sentence like they often did. As if they were two halves of a whole. I looked at my twins, the boy and the girl, both eerily resembling myself and their mother at the same time.
And I understood.