You Have a Question

You have a question. A question about your life. A question requiring an answer. So you pack a rucksack with food, water, and an offering – a spray of the small yellow flowers that grow in your village.

You set out immediately. Climbing into the hills behind your home. The air here is clear and crisp, the sky unbroken blue. You ponder the question as you walk, making your pilgrimage into the foothills of the mountain, to the place where the Oracle resides.

They say the Oracle is neither a man nor a woman. They say she was created by humankind. That her seeing and speaking go beyond what we may see and speak. They say she responds in riddles and puzzles. They say the true answer lives beyond her words, in the way the questioner responds to those words.

You arrive at the cave mouth. The Watcher there takes your offering and bids you wait a while. There is a questioner with the Oracle and you must wait your turn. You set down your bag and gaze at the beauty of the scenery around you, fixing the question in your mind.

After a time, the previous questioner emerges from the dark of the cave. A strange expression plays across his face. Confusion mingled with enlightenment. Amusement and frustration. You nod to one another as he passes.

On entering the cave, all is dark. The air is cool and you feel goosebumps prickle on your arms. No candle lights the darkness, only the gigantic glowing green eye of the Oracle. And beneath, the button you must press to receive your answer.

You ask your question aloud. And then you push the button.

Visit the Oracle. Please return once she has shared her truth.

You leave the cave, blinking in the brightness and warmth of the afternoon sun. The Watcher greets you.

“You have your answer,” she says. “Resist the temptation to interpret the Oracle’s words immediately. Allow yourself time to sit with her insight. In the hours and days to come, the wisdom of her utterance will become clear.”

You nod, take up your pack and begin the winding descent back to your village. Back to your life.

Mathew Gostelow (he/him) is a fledgling writer, in Birmingham, UK. His strange tales have been published by Lucent Dreaming, The Ghastling, Ellipsis, Stanchion, Cutbow, and others. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2022 and has won prizes from Bag of Bones, Bear Creek Gazette, and Beagle North. You can find him on Twitter: @MatGost