Abyss & Apex : Fourth Quarter 2009: Nine Views Of The Oracle

Nine Views Of The Oracle

by Rachel Manija Brown


The oracle’s house is built of bone and stone, of slim bamboo sticks and stalks of yarrow. It’s decorated with haunted dice and plaques inscribed with desperate wishes.

Blue light flickers from the cracks in the walls. (The oracle has no need of windows.) The oracle is inhaling the fumes from the sacred fires. The oracle is watching NASDAQ.

The entrails fertilize her garden. Do not stray from the path.



The oracle reads a book whose letters correspond to numbers. Each formula reveals a different story.

If you sneak a peek while her back is turned, you will become convinced that if you count the tendrils on the oldest banyan tree in the forest, multiply by the number of lizards in the desert, and divide by the number of customers who enter your shop on the day of your birthday, you will find the number of breaths remaining to you.

This never ends well.



The oracle excels at math. The oracle speeds through the Sunday crossword. The oracle could have cracked the Enigma code in a day, but no one invited her to try.

The oracle never speaks without invitation.



If your true love will die by your own right hand, do you really want to know?



The oracle is not immortal. Some day she will search for another person – male or female, it doesn’t matter, this is the oracle – who can meet her gaze without fear.

Their daughter will have eyes the color of heartbreak, and stars on the palms of her hands.



The oracle’s attendants have a word written across the soft clay of their foreheads. The oracle has a line of numbers tattooed across her arm.

Knowledge isn’t always power.



You do not need to count the stanzas. Like the years of your life, the oracle counts for you.



The ninth stanza is the answer to your question. If you look long enough, you will understand.





Rachel Manija Brown’s short story “River of Heaven” was published by Strange Horizons. Her memoir “All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: an American Misfit in India,” was published by Rodale, and her manga-style graphic novels “Spy Goddess” and ”The 9-Lives” were published by Tokyopop. She also writes for television and recently sold an animated series, Game World (with Sherwood Smith) to the Jim Henson Company.


Story © 2009 Rachel Manija Brown. All other content copyright © 2009 Abyss & Apex Publishing. 

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Art Director Steven Coker, Jr.