Deal 13: Riddled

I’ve sat in this dusty abode a long time. I grow weary. Even the occasional snacks aren’t enough to assuage my boredom.

Most of them are chatty enough, but chatty is no longer enough all by itself. I long for a challenge.

Somebody must have been telling tales, because the snacks are arriving with attitude. They seem to think they prepared for their encounter. But none have bested me yet. To be honest, only one or two have come close. (We won’t talk about that short chap with his “what’s in my pockets” line.)

I’m even growing weary of my traditional riddles.

“What goes on four legs by morning, two legs at noon, and three legs at evening?”

“Two sisters, the first gave birth to the second, and the second in turn gives birth to the first. Who are they?”

Uninspired tripe. But it is traditional, and the snacks get rather uppity when I don’t ask one of them.

I’ve taken to letting my snacks ask a riddle of their own, in hopes that I learn one that will at least relieve a little of my boredom.

A younger snack asked: “There were two cats, 1 2 3 cat and un deux trois cat, they had a swimming race from England to France. Who won?”

Apparently it was 1 2 3 cat, because “un deux trois quatre cinq”. Yup. It used an outright pun as the answer, and thought it clever to have mangled two languages to boot. It was crunchy.

Another tried a simple question: “What’s the difference between an egg and an elephant?” I objected that this didn’t even try to follow the literary forms, but allowed my snack another go if the answer pleased me. “If you don’t know, I’m not going to send you to the store for eggs” was at least absurd.

What are they teaching those mortals these days?

So I wait in my dusty abode, an ever vigilant guardian. Perhaps I will meet my prophesied Oedipus, and he will set me free.

Toothy deal

The Deal

From the two shuffled decks I drew two cards each.

Spread cards showing (clockwise) Shark attack, Change, Honor, and Afterlife.

The Obvious

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”. Pretty much all of the shark movies since Jaws itself are represented in these cards one way or another. But that is a pretty obvious reading.

Another Way

The Shark Attack card is obviously quite a dominant meme. So we need to drag that bigger boat in another direction.

So focus on Honor. The image is of a figure kneeling and receiving a formal honor, likely a knighthood. Knighthood traditionally comes with accessories as well as burdens. And we know that a suit of armor is actually fairly proof against sharks.

And with that, we come around to an episode of The Mythbusters where Adam went diving with sharks in a suit of armor. All Mythbusters episodes involve Change in one form or another, and the possibility of testing claims about a possible Afterlife is never far from their minds.

Further out

The shark is a strong image. Sometimes you just have to admit that the Oracle is not always clear, toss the cards back, and try again. But before you take that step, try looking at the cards in a different way.

Lay them out in different orders. Turn them up one at a time and try to make sense of them as a sequence. Ignore the words and look at them from other angles, concentrating on the images.

Above all, remember that the goal is to distract you long enough to let your subconscious mind catch hold of some form of inspiration.

Deal 11: One day at Knossos

The tunnel was going to be the end of him, for it led in to the labyrinth, and no one was sure that there was another way in or out. The one certain thing was that this tunnel was only a way in, as the gate slammed shut behind him and the bolts shot home.

Light was available from the grating in the gate. Far in the distance there was a pool of light. In the center of the pool was something. He approached with caution. A lantern. A map. And a box of matches. Correction, a box of match. Singular.

He stared down the tunnel, and saw just at the limit of his vision another patch of light. He looked behind, and saw that the guards had replaced the outer door, and heard the sound of torches as they welded it down.

He shrugged. He’d never fit in above ground anyway. He’d heard all the stories about his mother Pasiphaë and what she’d had Daedalus construct for her that apparently caused his birth and deformity. He’d never been certain he’d believed the stories. But now, here he was, in a tunnel that had only one exit, into another construction of the great Daedalus.

He made his way to the next pool of light. There he found a handful of olives. They did have bones, but were a poor substitute for his recent diet. But they were available and he was hungry.

With that he could see how his life would pass. Darkness. Pools of light. Occasional sustenance, olives most likely but with luck a rat or something larger. And looming like a bright light at the end, perhaps a way out marked by bright blood and blades.

So that’s 10 tales down

Ten tales. Ten days. Twenty cards dealt. Something like thirty three hundred words written. A fair start all in all.

I’m writing this shortly after queuing the 11th tale, dealing the 12th, 13th and 14th spreads, and reserving their slots on the calendar. If I write those three pieces, then I’ve completed two whole weeks. A month will surely just fly by at that rate.

Here and now, I’m committing to do a month. 30 days would be conventional, but I’m a geek by profession so I’ll commit to 32. I really should make it 42 in honor of Deep Thought, or just toss caution to the winds and go for the full year’s worth. But I will decide by deal 30 whether I’m stopping this madness at 32, or going on from there.

In addition to the daily tale, look for the occasional post about the Oracle cards themselves, and perhaps even an update like this one after I’ve reached another milestone.

You can also follow the oracle on twitter (@Creative_Oracle) which will “real soon now” include a daily tweet of a random card spread for you to consider for your own inspirational needs.

Deal 10: Poisoned

Advancement was tough in the Assassin’s Guild, at least at the top of the profession. Since tradition limited the size of the total membership, often the only path to promotion required applying one’s skills. This meant that all too often a few eager apprentices “volunteered” as practical examples to keep the rest of the apprentices from seeking the easy way too early in their careers.

The young assassin sought me out with an offer I could not refuse, clearly seeking the easy way to win the spot in the guild he so coveted. He imagined I could ease his way by one means or another, and I agreed that it was possible I could set him on his path.

He offered to wager for iocaine. Odorless, tasteless, nigh undetectable, extremely deadly, and even more rare. It was the royalty of poisons, and so expensive that it was usually only applied to royalty. He had some, and wanted more.

We struck a deal. He poured six cups of wine, and dosed one with some iocaine. After mixing the glasses, we would take turns sampling the local vintage. And one of us would die and the other win the wager.

I had the first choice. Of course, at five to one, the odds were on my side and I barely hesitated before calmly selecting and tasting my first glass. We both paused for a moment, then I stood and bowed, having clearly survived this round.

He responded by confidently grabbing the glass closes to his seat and drinking it right off.

Having failed to die, it was once again my turn. The odds were now three to one, and I was beginning to wonder if I hadn’t made a serious mistake by embarking on this venture. But the potential rewards were too great to pass up so I made my choice. I drank. I lived.

He paled a little at that. Apparently I had just emptied the cup that he though held the famous poison. That left him facing two chances at life and one of death.

He paused. He considered his options. He made his choice. He drank. We both held our breath.

He lived.

My turn, the last turn. I made a show of considering the cups carefully. Smelling them. Swirling the wine in each, watching the lees and legs. Taking my time before making a choice that could mean my life.

Finally, I selected a cup and drank it down. He blanched visibly, and rose as if to flee before blame for my cooling body could be pinned on him. But I did not die.

Silently, I pointed at the remaining cup, and demanded my due.

He was veritably quaking in his seat as he brought out and inspected the now empty container of iocaine. He stared at it and at the remaining glass. Clearly this game had never gone wrong before.

For I had in fact been concealing the poisoned glass from his view while allowing him to believe I had taken it on each and every round. The remaining glass held poison, I had won our bet, and he had only one means left to pay.

Being in no hurry to add his mortal soul to my collection, I stopped him as he gamely lifted the glass to his lips. I took the contract from my pocket, pricked his finger for a little blood, and applied a finger print to the document.

For he had sought out a greater power than he imagined, and I was now free to collect his soul at any future time I wanted. He will be a useful puppet meanwhile.

Advancement remained tough in the assassins guild, and under my watchful eye and guidance I knew it would remain so for another generation.

Deal 9: Levitating Steel

When Aaron discovered he could move things with his mind, he hardly noticed that it was unusual. He had never paid much attention in school, and never stood out or even noticed others who were remarkable.

So when the paperclip he was reaching for jumped to his finger tip, he naturally assumed that was normal.

After a time, he discovered that other things would move at his command. Keys would turn towards him. Nails were always ready when he needed one. Even after some practice (that he didn’t really notice he was doing, mind you) tools would jump at his urging.

Then a terrible thing happened. He started to pay attention. He noticed that everyone was staring at him when a sledge-hammer followed him around the job site.

So he decided that for once in his life he would be notorious. He called a second hammer. It came. He called a bucket of rivets. That came too. By now, everyone has dropped what they were doing to watch.

Aaron was basking in the new-found attention, so he reached for something that he knew would make his reputation for ever. He called all the girders in the site to him.

We don’t know what he thought he would do next, because that was the moment it all went pear-shaped. For every girder in reach immediately leaped into the air and headed to where he stood. All of them. Even the steel frame of the building they were erecting, and the steel in the cranes, and, of course, the load of steel just arriving on a convoy of trucks.

The noise was deafening.

When the dust cleared, the only sign of Aaron was a trickle of blood from under the pile of neatly stacked structural steel.

They called it a freak accident, wrote it off to a combination of weather and an otherwise unrecorded and highly localized earthquake, because no one wanted to admit what they’d seen.

The only actual casualty was Aaron, and I suppose he did get his wish in some small way. People remember his name now.

Deal 7: Watchpuppet

“He’s watching your every move, you know.”


“The puppet. He’s watching you.”


“He really likes watching you.”

“Now you’re making him sound like a pervert.”

“No, he’s just vigilant, and he seems to think you’re worth watching.”


“He’s made of wood. Maybe he’s worried you’ll want to toss him on the fire. I don’t know, and he’s not saying. But he is watching you.”

“I wasn’t planning to light a fire tonight, but now that you bring it up—”

“No fire. He really doesn’t like fire. And you don’t want him to do more than watch.”

“He’s just a puppet!”


“So what can he do? Wait, I can’t believe I’m arguing about this.”

“I can’t either, actually.”

“He’s still watching me, though.”

“Yup. Of course, he watches everyone.”

“So I’m actually not that special?”



“He’s still watching you though.”

“And he talks to you?”

“Don’t be silly, he’s just a puppet and puppets can’t speak. No tongue.”

“But how do you—”

“Sign language.”

“He’s not moving! Wait, again, I can’t—”

“Doesn’t matter. He’s watching you.”

Deal 6: The doll’s task

The strange little man sat down beside me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He promised to right any one wrong; to fix anything; to solve any problem; and at a price I could bring to him on the morrow. But there was, of course, a catch. I had exactly one day to decide what I wanted done, and what would be done could not be undone.

The price I offered could be no more or less than exactly what I thought the problem was worth. But there was a catch there too: I had to show my offered payment when I named the task.

To this day I have no idea why I believed him, but I did. That was yesterday, and today I know the truth.

But I didn’t know the truth then, so I went home to consider my desires.

I knew I couldn’t possibly ask for a demonstration, because it was a one shot deal. I mean I could, but If I asked for a something simple as proof of his ability I would have used up my only chance at something bigger.

On the other hand I couldn’t ask for the moon because I clearly had to offer a price commensurate to the task and I had little of my own.

If I asked to be Empress of all the lands, Queen of this valley, or even just a moderately comfortable shopkeeper, I would have to offer a price many times greater than my entire worth, and my children’s worth, and their children’s worth for generations to come.

My train of thought took a sudden turn, at the subject of children. It generally thought that children require a father, and legitimate children require that father to be a husband. But the village had only one man of marriageable age, and he was deeply in love with my best friend, Gretchen. And I hated her for it while also loving her as a sister.

I decided on a task. I would ask that George love me, marry me, and father our children.

My mind made up about a goal, I still had to imagine a price. I spent half the night stewing over what love and future children were really worth to me. And then reconsidering my decision. Then deciding all over again.

The next day, I brought my only valuable possession along as I sought out the strange little man. At the appointed hour, and not a minute sooner, I found him.

“Have you decided on a task?” he asked.

“I have. I want to have George,” for that was his name, “as husband to me and father to my children. But he loves another, and this cannot come to be.”

“All things are possible, when the stars align and the rituals play out without a hitch,” he said.

“And what do you offer as a price?” he asked.

“All I have is this ring. It was my mother’s, and before her my grandmother’s. It has been in my family from mother to daughter since time out of mind.”

He turned away and considered for what seemed a very long time. Then turned back.

“Before you answer my final question, know this. The third answer binds us together in this rite. To break off after will forfeit the price and will put you at great risk.”

I simply nodded.

“So be it. An idea was formed. An action was taken. A price was offered. A task was named. These things were all done of your own free will. Now you affirm your desire that I complete the task at your price. Is that so?” he asked.

My voice steady, I looked him in the eye, and said “yes, it is so.”

“So be it. The task will be done. But not entirely without you.”

He reached into his bag and drew out a small, funny looking doll, made of grass or reeds bound with thread. He also brought out a small case, and from that a lancet which he quickly passed through a flame and then before I could protest he caught my hand and jabbed my finger. A drop of blood formed which he applied to the doll laying in his palm.

The drop sat on the doll like a bead of dew for a long while. Then it abruptly vanished as the doll stood up on his hand. It stared at me for a long time, nodded once, and dropped, lifeless, back into his hand.

He returned the doll and case to his bag.

“It is done. The price you offered was acceptable. But keep the ring, as you may need it in the future.”

With that he vanished.

Wondering what had really happened, I sat there in the village square for hours. I considered what I’d said, and what I had offered. What had he meant that the price was accepted when he didn’t claim the ring?

What price had I really paid? And what had I really purchased?

As the sun settled at day’s end I realized that George was beside me, and had been there for some time. “You seemed lost in your thoughts, and I didn’t want to disturb them,” he said.

“Mm. Hmm.” I said, not really sure how to respond.

“Come, Gretchen, we need get you home before dark,” he said.

“Okay” I said, but something didn’t seem right. “Wait, aren’t I Sally?”

“Who’s Sally?” he asked.

I suddenly realized what price I paid for his love.

Over the next few months as we planned the wedding and then the years after as we raised our children, everyone persisted in calling me Gretchen. No one had ever heard of Sally. The land I’d grown up on was just undeveloped moors. I eventually stopped asking as I realized that even George was starting to wonder if I wasn’t going mad.

But I knew the truth. I had set a task and offered a price and had paid it. I had sacrificed my past and my best friend. If that wasn’t true, then it was too late and I was already mad.