The Last Oracle
By Stephen Bertman
It was winter 2099. For generations no tourists had traveled to Delphi. Yet it seemed like only yesterday that he had first come and taken his place before Apollo’s temple. Now, as always, he waited for someone else to come, someone he could talk to and share his message with. The simple words he would speak were stored in his memory, ready to be spoken in a hundred different languages if need be to anyone who would listen.
Two inscriptions in Greek had once been legible on the marble façade above his head, engraved there in the days when the oracles of Apollo still uttered their prophecies. But, with the temple abandoned, the ancient letters had eventually turned to dust, a dust swept away by the chill wind that swirled among the fallen columns.
The first inscription had read: “Know thyself!”—but too few had ever had the desire to do so, preferring instead to exploit their strengths rather than confess their weaknesses. The second had read: “Nothing in excess”—but excess had long since ceased to be a warning and had become instead an irresistible goal.
Ignoring the tragic flaws in their nature and intoxicated with power, men had committed a final, irreversible act of self-delusion, convinced they controlled the future. That is when he had been sent there: to speak the forgotten words of the past to any still willing to listen. And so he had stood there in solitude for all those years.
Shrouded in a radioactive noon, the pale orb of a sun that had once brightly shone in his solar panel grew dimmer. The glowing red numerals of the clock on his forehead now flickered intermittently and finally forever fell dark.
About the Author
Stephen Bertman is the author of The Genesis of Science: The Story of Greek Imagination (Prometheus Books, 2010) and of two previous cover stories in THE FUTURIST (January-February 2001 and December 1998) based on his earlier books, Cultural Amnesia (Praeger, 2000) and Hyperculture (Praeger, 1998). Email Profbertman2@aol.com.
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