What happens when Crystal Ball finds herself a new master?
|Word Count: 1026 "Science Fiction Short Story Contest" Story prompt: when humanity is almost lost, what will plausibly threaten us? What will save us?
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Crystal Ball stayed cloudy. She was having a hissy-fit. All people ever wanted was happy news. At its best, all Crystal could offer was that they would walk out the door alive and well.
What followed wasn’t pretty. The customer felt cheated with that obvious fact. They demanded their money back. Crystal got stuffed in a closet and the old Tarot cards came out to play.
It wasn’t fair. Was it Crystal’s fault the irate flake walked out and got hit by a bus? No. It wasn’t. She was doing her job the best way she could.
Getting tossed out in the trash on impulse wasn't something anyone could predict. It really hurt Crystal’s pride. Life had begun for her in a Gypsy Witch's spell. Was that magical moment going to end in a garbage dumpster?
People never wanted to know anything but what ‘their’ future was. Crystal went into a sulk. That lasted until the filth she was thrown in rattled and shook dragging her to the bottom of the garbage pile. Where was she going now? It didn’t take long to find out.
When her smelly world revealed the sky once more, there was Allen Anthony hunting for treasure. She glinted up at him from among old clearance sale ribbons and sacks of half-eaten Japanese Sushi.
“Hey. A real Crystal Ball. It’s a keeper.”
Crystal welcomed having ripe fish scales removed from her surface. Her cloudy thoughts faded with a final flash of inner charged lightning. Allen Anthony kept rubbing like Crystal was some kind of Genie bottle. As the twelve-year-old youngster peered back at his reflection Crystal did something she’d never done before.
Without being asked, she showed Allen what he would look like at the ripe old age of sixteen. It took a moment to mold the boy’s features from the image reflected on her surface. “Hoopa! That’s me, isn’t it? How the heck did you do that without batteries?” He marveled.
“Maybe solar power mixed it up with a time warp.” Allen was into fantasy and science fiction so anything remotely considered by a favorite author was possible.
Crystal winked at the lad. Realizing she had a true believer she got ready to show off some real worldwide future stuff when Allen Anthony put her in the sack he was carrying. That reduced her enthusiasm immediately.
Sharing a pillowcase half full of empty pop cans seemed a step down from her previous existence. She wondered if she might be sold and put on display on a dusty shelf in some old pawn shop. Crystal was pretty shaken up by the time the boy dumped her out into daylight.
She wasn’t being ‘canned’ like the others in the bag and sold after all. She watched as her traveling companions were stomped flat and made ready to be turned into recycled cash. Crystal was put in a place of honor next to Allen Anthony’s little league baseball trophy.
“Nice.” She thought, congratulating herself on her good fortune. It only took a moment for her to look around the bedroom to admire Allen’s taste in literature. Hand-me-downs from days gone past revealed themselves.
There was some devoted family reading going back generations here. Original editions of Amazing Stories, Science Fiction Quarterly, and Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction were abundant. One of them lying open on the boy’s bed meant the tradition was being carried on.
When Allen slipped into his room late that night through his bedroom window with the smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke on his breath Crystal knew she had her work cut out with him. The lad was obviously trembling on the downside of adventure living.
When he came close enough to arouse her instincts, Crystal glowed into life, swirled her magical 'abra-ca-dabra' and shot a laser beam of light into the startled boy’s eyes. “Geez, you nearly blinded me.” Allen rubbed at them, sneezed, and ran into his bathroom to vomit up the nights evil find.
“First time.” Crystal mused looking at Allen’s recent past. “Experimenting with somebody else’s tossed out booze and half smoked lights.” Things weren’t as terrible as she had feared. From the sounds coming out of the bathroom, Allen was throwing up any thought of repeating the past few hours.
When Allen stumbled back in holding his stomach together with both hands, Crystal pulsed with a gentle star filled bubble of happiness. It filled the room as Allen fumbled a hand to turn off his light switch.
He groaned, rubbed his eyes, and wondered allowed. Crystal reflected his future into adulthood into his eyes. “I’m seeing things. I’ll never drink again.”
Allen Anthony was a bald geek with thick bottle glasses before his time. He was at a world fantasy/science fiction convention. People were applauding with a standing ovation. His future self was being awarded the John W. Campbell, Jr. Nobel prize.
Allen Anthony watched his grown-up self rise and motion his admiring throng to silence. “Please.”
Quiet took forever to settle them down. “It was the revelation of finding the first intelligent alien species that sparked renewed interest in our literature.” He began. A roar of approval made him pause.
“It wasn’t me that wrote all the speculative fiction that resulted in it being so popular today.” Boo’s and laughter answered that remark. Obviously, the group felt otherwise.
"I was only the hand that brought the new intelligent aliens hovering over us together with our foremost creative minds to prevent the annihilation of both our cultures. That only happened with the help of Crystal, my best friend.” This time it was the huge ant-like aliens from Hiss who offered their highest civilian honor to Allen Anthony. Military officials from both species saluted each other and accepted renewed trade agreements, sharing of advanced knowledge, and peace.
The mention of his makebelieve compatriot in arms, Crystal Ball, was legend. Allen Anthony was allowed the foibles he wanted. If he wanted to share his glory with an imaginary friend that was fine, considering the genius he was in shaping the future of mankind's dreams.
It was enough for Crystal Ball to watch the eyes of the young Allen Anthony. She saw the safe future he would bring to two worlds reflected and glinting in his eyes like they were their own small, winking, crystal balls.