A Modest Fortune Told

Submitted into Contest #152 in response to: Set your story in an oracle or a fortune teller’s parlor.... view prompt


Adventure Fantasy Horror

The Committee To Save The World(CTOSTW- pronounced sea toast W) met on the ship furthest from any landed area. A computer had been used to find the perfect spot. Every ounce of science and every ounce of intuition needed to be used. There must be a revolution now or there would be no more nows. The governments and their peoples were desperate. Only guesses had been made about how to do it, how to save the world.

Each member of the committee had been chosen for their expertise. Klaus’s expertise in Climate change, Renke in languages, Stompf in finances, Dunke in psychology, Bowland in contract law, Slage in bio-sciences and biochemistry. Finally Tomas, a think tank expert was selected as the head CTOSTW.

The Earth in this century had many intractable problems. The governments of the world committed murders of various shades against each other even in their own country. Some countries literally starved their people of food, water, and breathable air. Making a living for most of the worlds people also became difficult. Machines did most of the work so many people had no work and did not find purpose. Not having work but still being paid turned out to be very bad for peoples psychology. Many but not all people had trouble maintaining a will to live.

They placed an ad out of desperation: Wanted Fortune Teller for prognostication, Must be available Weekdays 8am to 8pm Eastern Standard Time, Full Time- able to predict daily, weekly, monthly, yearly in the following broad categories: Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology. Ecology, Law. Able to speak in English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Chinese. Good Computer Skills required.

Many replies came all of them seemed fantastical, but Lola’s seemed the most fantastical yet she knew certain distinct facts about the committee that no one should be able to know. Very personal facts that each committee member found both astounding and creepy. But they were desperate. Their time limited, and their solutions few, Lola seemed too much like the dream come true. They felt at this time that they had no other choice- it had to happen.

The committee, or little ole think tank blew it’s wad on prediction. And hell, it was worth it. General prediction is the gold standard of fortune telling. Lola, a self professed fortune teller, knew her stuff. The life predictions of more than 200 data-points otherwise known as people predicted major life events for more than 10 years. She predicted when General Maduci would kick the bucket within one week. She predicted a revolution in South Asia within one day and also the number dead on the first day. In one week she made ten perfect financial predictions, three predictions about shootings and murders. Twenty three predictions down to the last second about weather that were 100% correct.

The committee entered her fortune teller parlor. Lola, gorgeous yet ancient looking, placed a bejeweled Turban on her head as we were entering. She told the committee to be seated. There were five chairs- they had not told her how many were coming for the appointment. There were more than five in the committee but only five showed up. Each of the committee persons wondered if she had a compatriot in their midst.

The committee chairman handed the NDA to Lola. It was brief: In consideration for allowing you to live and paying you handsomely said prognosticator agrees to not tell another soul, under penalty of death.

Just before the so-called agreement was handed to Lola, she said, “I will not and do not need to sign this agreement”. Instead she handed the chairman her own agreement and several prognostications. The chairman stared at the words, then he said without delay, “Let’s begin.”

Lola responded with #1- how long do each committee member have to live? When the committee read the answer, their mouths stood agog. The language might as well been Egyptian Hieroglyphics. The committee head asked Lola to translate.

She said,”This being the language of the time of death, this is what my vision saw. I can no longer understand this language, this is the final draft of the vis-stories that were available for me to observe.”

What could this mean? Tomas thought that maybe it is a very futuristic written language. “If it is true that this is a futuristic language then we need to know what date this futuristic language appears. We need to know the tribes, races, ethnicity, or nationalities of these peoples.”, said the committee head.

The six most important pertinent questions of the committee:

1 how long will we each live

2 what should I do to give my life more purpose

3 What should I invest in in the next week, when should I sell the investment

4 How high will the sea rise in the next five years

5 What five things should our governments do to prevent climate warming

6 What are the three most important things our governments need to do

Lola handed us twenty pages of answers to our six questions. They were numbered with the questions in English and in the new language. But the answer were all in the same confusing writing symbols of the first prediction she handed us.

“Pay up now, I have delivered, I don’t work for free”, Lola said.

“Now wait a minute, we cannot verify any of these answers”, said Tomas.

“I only promised to deliver the answers, it was up to you to interpret the answers and act on them as you saw fit. How could you verify my answers anyway- do you have a time machine”, Lola said?

“We don’t even know what language this is or writing system”, the committee chimed -in together.

“Lola, if you read our full disclosure again it plainly states that you would only get half now once we understand what the predictions portend. How can we understand these answers with the language that we see here”, questioned Tomas?

The committee regrouped alone in a private room and began to discuss. Their most worried discussion being the death prognostication. They thought that might be the easiest to try and understand. After all there are only ten digits typically in English. Hopefully this is in the same base 10 system. It appeared that each answer had only two symbols. Since everyone in the committee were in their sixties and seventies, that meant the first digit had to be a seven, eight or nine. With that in mine each of the committee members matched up these at least to their current ages. The beginning digits were all the same except for the seventy year old.

They next tried to match up some of the answers such as climate change and noticed some answers contained the words in the translated questions. So there might be a chance to decode these answers yet.

The committee debated whether they should pay half with the hope that they would eventually translate these answers. They also thought maybe we can write another contract that specifies the language. Statistically sister Lola had delivered on over a thousand predictions correctly for the last week. That is why they were more than willing to accept the prognostications as solid. People had died the way she had predicted. Wars had started the way she had said they would too and the murders of specific people happened just as predicted.

So even though there would be major decoding necessary for these answers, they justified moving forward to themselves. They had never seen such a level of certainty for a prognosticator. The fortune they could all make from these fortunes told seemed so close. It felt like the turkey sandwich with all the fixin’s, like the whole ball of wax, like the whole nine-yards. In other words success, it seemed so close. Saving the world could be so profitable.

The committee thought long and hard about how to get Lola to write these answers in the way they needed them. But every time they came up with a scheme, no matter how water-tight the language Lola manipulated and answered their questions in such a way that the answers were difficult to interpret.

Time ran out for the world, small wars were leading to large wars, the Earth would have no place left that could be livable. Finally, they knew they were beat and they paid Lola just what she wanted. They paid by allowing her to kill half the world. That small price seemed OK to know the future and to know how to fix the world.

The Devil knew she had won again.

July 02, 2022 01:18

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Graham Kinross
12:44 Jul 09, 2022

This was interesting. I couldn’t tell which character was narrating but other than that I liked the premise and the twist.


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Aeris Walker
09:31 Jul 08, 2022

Hi Glenn! I enjoyed your story. I liked how the questions the committee were so desperate to have answers to were pretty reflective of what people value. We care about living, and our life having purpose, as well as achieving wealth and success, and then somewhere toward the bottom of the priorities, let’s consider how to impact the world for the better. Very thought provoking. Great job, Glenn.


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Susan Dalziel
09:58 Jul 07, 2022

Loved the premise and various characters. Wonder if POV runs true all the way through? Good ending, cautionary tale!


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