Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Oracle Spoke, by Holly Phillips

The Oracle Spoke
Holly Phillips
Clarkesworld: June 2007

Lt. Caldwell hears his name called deep inside his soul. It is a woman's voice and hearing the voice guides him to find a woman in a hidden room. Cassandra. She appears at first to be nothing more than a common waif, but Caldwell brings Cassandra back to his military camp. There, in front of the General and others, she speaks a prophecy. Or, more precisely, the Oracle inside Cassandra spoke a prophecy. Cassandra herself has no memory of what the Oracle speaks when the Oracle takes over.

Caldwell feels protective towards Cassandra, whom it should be pointed out, is distrustful of most everybody, but it is apparent that Caldwell does not have the same greed of prophecy that others do. Half of the story is told from Caldwell's perspective, the other half from Cassandra's.

A normal usage of an Oracle in fiction is as a nameless, faceless woman who makes pronouncements about the future in often vague terms. What Holly Phillips does here is give a name and a face and a personality to the hose which the Oracle uses. Cassandra is described as speaking with a "ruined voice" and looking like "a skinny, tired out girl". She is broken by the Oracle speaking through her, with no control whatsoever of what is being said or when it is said, or even a memory of what is said. The Oracle Spoke is a sad story, and one which I did not expect much from at the beginning, but midway through the story my interest picked up. It isn't outstanding, but The Oracle Spoke is a decent story with a very strong ending.

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