The Iron Writer Challenge #37
2013 Iron Writer Winter Solstice Challenge #1
Daniel Saunders, Linda Williams, Paul Arden Lidberg, Tannis Laidlaw
The Oracle of All Knowledge
An Abandoned Outhouse
“…and a centaur galloped into the clearing and made me be his wife!” Ron was breathless when he finished the story of his morning. To him, it was fascinating. To most of the other six year olds present, it was fascinating. But to one little girl in a princess outfit and wearing a toe ring she stole from her mom, the story had the ring of falsehood, she having never seen a centaur.
Ellie said with the air of young girl trying for all the world to be her older sister, “Ron, you are such a megalomanic. All you do is make up stuff. You’ve never seen a centaur,” she finished accusingly.
Ron was on the ropes, called out for his story, but feeling, like all six year olds, that escalation was the only escape. “Nuh uh! He took me to his abandoned outhouse where he lived and the lady that knows everything said the words and I was glued to his back! Forever!”
Ellie rolled her eyes and walked away. She was infatuated with Ron, but the maturity she prided herself on would not allow her to act like it. Instead she was intent on tormenting Ron, thinking that to be what all older girls would do. Deprived of his audience, Ron noticed his stomach grumbling. Lunch time. He would think of a better story to tell Ellie while munching raisins and crackers shaped like various animals he’d always wanted to pet and ride. It was while munching a particularly malformed and delicious rhinoceros that he had a brilliant idea.
Two hours later, Ron had bitten all the horses heads off and had roughly taped all the little army men to the stubs. It was an imperfect solution, but he was satisfied. He surveyed his domain, forgetting briefly the point of his endeavor. Ellie stomped over and smashed three of his monsters and he was reminded in an instant.
“What’s the big idea, Ellie?” He was on the verge of tears, the heat welling in his face. He clenched his fists into little balls and punched his thighs over and over. Ellie watched him, wordless. The more she watched Ron, the more he reminded Ellie of her father when he came home late from work and smelled like mommy’s juice. Ellie started laughing, thinking that if Ron kept at it, he would fall asleep on the floor and pee himself.
Her laughter stopped his tantrum cold. He looked at the floor for a moment, scrunched up his face until the tears stopped flowing, and started, “After school today, I’m going to see my aunt, who’s an oracle and knows everything…”
And Ellie decided that for once, she wouldn’t interrupt him. She would listen to him. She smiled.
The Weirdest Quest of All
When Hawk came to me to be part of a recovery team, I had no idea what I was in for, but who could resist looking for the Oracle of all knowledge? I mean the Oracle is something every resident of Jewel Mountain had grown up hearing stories about, and now, I get to help recover it!
As we stood gathered around the training field awaiting our official instructions, we noticed what appeared to be an unfamiliar new team member. I had always heard legend of the centaurs that roamed the Opal Forrest, but I had never actually seen one until today. I hoped that I did not appear rude as I was sure I was staring at our new friend harder than a polite female would.
“I am honored to have my most trusted men with me for this quest.” Hawk began.
I cleared my throat, women were not looked upon as terribly helpful in such parties, so I wanted to remind them that I was there, and also that I had personally taken down each of them at one point or another. Part of me thought the reason I was accepted into Hawks band of knights was so that I would not share this trinket of information with many people, which was just fine with me, I always enjoyed holding a bargaining tool.
“Might I rephrase to warriors, we are going after the biggest megalomaniac in the kingdom, Dedric.”
We were all familiar with this particular baddie. He had been on a spree as of late: thefts, fires and even a kidnapping. Luckily we had emerged victorious in these early battles. Hawk got his trusty gazing ball, which had saved us on more than one occasion, so that we would know the type of surroundings that awaited us.
Hawk waved his hand above the orb and it sprang to life with a brilliant blue glow. He looked into it and then shook his head as if in disbelief, then he looked again. By this time, his behavior was so strange, I went over to look for myself the reason for it. Let me tell you it was a doozy!
The first thing I saw was the Oracle and she was beautiful! Streaming with brilliant colors and looking almost like it was made of lace and light all at once. Then the picture panned out to show the location, and I too was shaking my head in confusion. It appeared that the Oracle of all Knowledge was being held in an abandoned outhouse?
“Angelina! Where are you? Angelina!” My eyes popped open at the familiar voice calling out to me.
About the time I opened my mouth to respond, Hawk tripped over my legs, as I had fallen asleep under my favorite oak. Good Gods it was a dream!
“We have a quest milady, to find the Oracle of all Knowledge!” I smacked my head in disbelief, could this be happening?
Paul Arden Lidberg
Milton Keynes tugged his jacket as he glanced in the rearview mirror. He grabbed the briefcase and walked into the field.
He thought it might be the wrong address, but the GPS was adamant. “Fortune favors the Bold” he thought as he knocked on the door of an abandoned outhouse. “Hello? Anyone in there?”
“What do you want?” came the squeaky response.
“I’m Agent Keynes from the IRS, I’m here to discuss your tax returns.”
“Crap! Hang on…” The outhouse slid to the left, revealing a stairway leading underground.
Reaching the bottom, Milton was surprised by a modern, high-tech chamber filled with exotic gadgetry. A gaudily dressed man was seated on an elevated throne . “Mister, uh, Planner?”
“That’s Master Planner, you Dolt! The Greatest Super Villain of All Time!”
“Another megalomaniac…” crossed Milton’s mind. “Right, uh…there are a couple of things we need to discuss about your taxes, Mr., uh, sorry, Master Planner.”
Spinning his throne, Master Planner shouted “Fred? Trot in here and bring the tax files!”
Moments later, a creature straight out of mythology cantered into the room, pulling a wagon full of computer printouts. “Here ya go, boss” the Centaur offered.
Master Planner came down to intimidate the IRS Agent. “So what do you want, anyway?”
“We need to take a closer look at your deductions, sir.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well” he started, “it really looks like you don’t understand depreciation.”
“What is there to know?” The Master Planner offered hesitantly, “I didn’t do anything wrong…”
“Well sir, what you’ve submitted just doesn’t make sense.” He consulted his notes. “It says here you built this ‘lair’ last year for $1 billion dollars, and then wrote that off as depreciation.. You just can’t do that with real estate.”
“Yes, I can. Check your superbeing charts, and you’ll see the lifespan for secret bases is around 11 months.” The villain had a smug look on his face. “So I can.”
Milton quickly searched his laptop for the tables in question. The bad guy was right! “Very well. Now, what is this piece of ‘research equipment’ you are depreciating at a value of $10 billion?”
The villain was beaming. “That is the Oracle of All Knowledge! I won it on ebay. Fierce bidding, but I won! A very special computer.”
“Can I see it?”
“Certainly!” The villain ushered him over. “There it is!” he said, grandly gesturing toward a computer screen mounted in a rock, a microphone extending from below. “Ask it anything!”
“Okay. What is the atomic weight of radium?”
“226 u” it vocalized.
“Who is the Secret Master of the Illuminati?”
“Al Gore” it replied. Milton was impressed.
“Fair enough…what are you really?” he ventured.
There was a faint chuffing noise, then a reply. “I am a cheap desktop computer.”
“What?!?” shouted the Master Planner. “What the Hell are you talking about?”
“You’ve been had, sir” the disguised computer replied.
“Well, that’s disallowed. You owe 3 billion in taxes and penalties” stated Milton.
“But, but, but…”
“I’m sorry, but you should know better than to get in the sights of…”
A flash of light, a puff of smoke…
A Model for a Centaur
‘What’s a centaur?’ the boy asked his older sister Jenny who, at fourteen, was the oracle of all knowledge to 10 year-old Leonard. Especially when doing homework. They were sitting on the back porch. The day was a scorcher.
She shut her sketchpad with a sigh. ‘Come on; bring your stuff. I’ll show you.’
He followed her past the barn to the shade of the abandoned outhouse where they had a clear view of Wilbur, the hired-hand who had been working the farm since their father died. He was one of those men who said he could do anything and knew everything. Mother called him a polymath; Jenny, with a grin, a megalomaniac; Leonard, no grin, a bighead. Wilbur was ploughing the bottom field behind Jeb, their Clydesdale.
‘See Wilbur?’ Jenny asked. ‘Now just watch.’ Wilbur turned the corner to head their way. Jeb’s head was down, pulling the heavy plough uphill with all his strength. From their vantage point, they could see Wilbur behind the horse, bare-chested in the Indian summer heat, gleaming with sweat in the afternoon sunshine. ‘Just imagine Wilbur is holding a bow and arrow instead of the plough. And we were a bit further away. We’d be looking at a beast made of an archer at the top and a horse below.’
Leonard could see that. Sort of. ‘Okay, so?’
‘A centaur is a mythological creature with a man’s chest, arms and head but he’s attached to the body of a horse. They were awfully rough, only half human.’ She grabbed his pencil. ‘Look.’ She quickly sketched Wilbur’s top-half attached to Jeb’s huge body beneath.
‘Scary,’ Leonard said. But he was pleased. The drawing was good. Maybe his teacher would think he’d done it himself to illustrate the homework. He bent to complete the assignment.
When he looked up, Jeb was munching a chow-bag in the shade of the woods along the stream and Wilbur had disappeared. ‘Where’s he gone?’ Leonard asked Jenny.
‘Maybe,’ she said with a sly look, ‘he’s cooling off in the creek. Wanna go look?’
They raced downhill, through the woods above the stream. There they saw Wilbur. And their mother. They were not in the water even though they were dressed for a skinny dip.
‘Jiminy Cricket,’ Leonard murmured to Jenny, stopping still for a good look. But she had gone. He turned to see her running lickety-split up the hill.
Back at the house, he could hear Jenny sobbing inside her room. She had dropped her sketchpad on the floor of the hallway. Leonard picked it up. The top sketch was a beautiful drawing of Wilbur’s face with a soft, sappy smile on it. He flicked to the next page which portrayed Wilbur standing by the fence; the following sketch was of Wilbur also, this time riding Jeb. After that was Wilbur with only his trousers on, like this afternoon. And the final drawing was Wilbur lying face-down in bed with even his bottom stark bare-naked.
Leonard backed away from Jenny’s room. He carefully closed the sketchbook and replaced it on the floor.
That day haunted him forever…the day his childhood ended.