Starting Point: The Oracle


As we came to the top of the staircase my stomachs began to twitch and dance in anxious anticipation. This was the end of my long journey, and soon I would have the answers I was seeking. But what if I asked the wrong question. What If I didn’t like what I heard. This would likely be my one and only chance to consult the Oracle, and I didn’t want to bow it.

The acolyte halted our procession, awaiting permission from his brethren to approach.

First to speak to the Oracle were the two brothers we had met on a pilgrimage from Junjin. Baylen approached and told the great machine of his predicament – his desire to enlist as a warrior of the Magistrate, his parents disdain of such a profession, and their hopes that he would remain with them to work the family farm. When he was finished, the Oracle began to formulate a response, its lights flashing in a moment of contemplation. It didn’t take long for it to come to a conclusion. “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land your Lord has given you,” it said. “Exodus 20:12.”

Next it was Baylen’s brother Luben’s turn. He approached and asked the knower of all things if he should marry the girl he’d told us about that night at the inn. Again, the Oracle flashed its lights and produced a quick reply. “Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right – Doctor Phil.”

One of the acolytes led Baylen and Luben away to an antechamber where they could reflect on what the Oracle had told them.

Meanwhile, our guide signalled for Habiq to step up, and he did so with assurance. Confidently he read out his pre-prepared question. The Oracle had to think only for a breif moment before giving him a confident answer:

“Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known – Carl Sagan.”

I wasn’t sure what the Oracle’s answer had meant. But then I wasn’t entirely sure what Habiq had really been asking. At least I was sure that he himself knew, and that he was happy with the answer. He cast me a beaming smile over his shoulder, and as one of the acolytes led him away I heard the hooded figure say, “you are truly blessed. Sagan is one of the greatest and wisest prophets.”

Next it was my turn…

How would you continue this story?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Artwork by Jose Ochoa (

Written by Mark Ball.

  • Kirov

    Really interesting idea. Perhaps our character receives a reply he doesn’t understand, so he does some research on who the quote was from. He finds that the the quoted individual was some disreputable individual, and it leads him to the discovery that the oracle is simply a computer from ancient times that just listens to what you say and spits out a quote from its database that is somewhat related. He then becomes the leader of a heretic revolution.

    • Thanks. This one’s been stuck in my brain for a few months now. Glad I finally wrote it down.
      The computer spitting out something random is exactly what I had in mind. But I was thinking that it’s actually a space probe from Earth, and it’s been picked up by aliens (note I said “stomachs” in the first paragraph) and become the basis of their religion. It’s similar to the messages on the Voyager disks (that’s why I included a Carl Sagan quote).
      So basically the Oracle is V’ger 😉

      • Kirov

        Wow, I didn’t pick up on that at first. That makes it even more interesting! What might happen if humans have developed FTL travel and visit this civilization?

  • Leonardo Faria

    Questioner: “Where exactly is the legendary 13th human colony in Battlestar Galactica?”
    Oracle: “Get a life – Confucius.”

  • Logan Testa

    I’m not sure if this was what you were going for, but this was absolutely hilarious. Something about deeply reflecting on a quone from doctor Phil and Carl Satan being the “oldest and wisest” prophet is gutbusting. I got a good chuckle out of this, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    • Thanks. Yeh I guess I’m poking fun at how religions form (another reason for including Sagan, the first being the idea that the Oracle is like the Voyager probes). I stumbled upon the Doctor Phil quote while researching and figured it would be good for a laugh.

    • Logan, I just read this comment back. I hope you don’t think that Carl Sagan being a wise prophet is a joke.
      By the way, I picked up on a Sagan quote in the Starting Point you wrote for next week 😀

      • Logan Testa

        No no, I have a great deal of respect for Carl Sagan. I just never thought of him as a prophet haha. He was always a funny kind of guy and thinking of him as some sort of great and all powerful voice of God is hysterical. I don’t know. That’s just not his style haha.

        • I guess it is kinda ironic when you look at it that way. But as religious figures go, a civilization could do much worse 🙂

  • lm 01100010

    Questioner: What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?

    Oracle: 42-Douglas Adams