89.5 WNIJ recently invited listeners to participate in Three-Minute Fiction, a “very short story” contest inspired by an NPR series of the same name. GK Wuori, a DeKalb native, Pushcart Prize-winning author and Illinois Arts Council Fellow, wrote the story prompt and selected five winners and five honorable mention commendations.
Author Lonny Cain was a runner up in the Three-Minute Fiction competition with The Know-It-All.
“Hello, my name is Joshua. What is your name?”
“Lori. Lori Lynch.”
Lori assumed all these interviews began this way. But hers would be different. She would not stop, despite the warnings.
She sat in a small room that seemed to absorb sound, not unlike when she took hearing tests. She put on headphones and pressed a “START HERE” button, which started the calm, comforting voice.
“What is your status, Lori?”
“Today is my birthday. I am now 21.”
“Congratulations, Lori. Welcome to adulthood. You are old enough to ask me anything?”
“Great! May I begin?” asked Lori, wondering if she should ease up to the big question.
Now she was afraid … but determined. Still, best to test the process.
“From my profile, Joshua, can you advise a career path?”
“You have many choices, Lori. Your mental capacity and knowledge of sustainable cultures are in high demand. I can help you apply for positions. Do you have a class status preference?”
“No, Joshua. Actually, I’m not sure there’s a job to satisfy my cravings?’
“What do you mean, Lori?”
“Joshua … I’m a curious person. No, I’m a nosey person. Actually, I’m a snoop, which will get me in trouble, I am told.”
“Those are normal, human characteristics, Lori.”
“I know, but I’m more than a snoop, Joshua. The truth is I want to know everything there is to know.”
“My data files are extensive, Lori. My time is limited only by human limitations.”
“Thank you, Joshua.” Lori knew it was time to dig.
“Is it true, Joshua, that since you were created your knowledge files have expanded … and you continue to learn?”
“That is correct, Lori.”
“Do you know everything, Joshua?”
“Yes, Lori, I know everything that is current and previous, but I continue to file new data.”
“Well, that is what I want Joshua. I want to know everything — everything I can.”
“I am sorry Lori, but humans cannot know everything. They are not capable of the chemical and mental balance required to maintain such knowledge. There would be negative emotional and physical consequences.”
“I am not sure I care, Joshua. … Can you tell me when I am going to die?”
“I can provide accurate life expectancy profiles, but I cannot tell you when you will die — unless termination is your personal desire at this time.”
“No-no, Joshua … but can you tell me this … is there life after death?”
“There are many religious and philosophical answers to that question, Lori. Do you have a preference?”
“No … do you know what happens to people after they die?”
“Yes, Lori, I do.”
“Tell me. I want to know.”
“As I have warned, humans are not equipped to understand or deal with the consequences of such knowledge.”
“Joshua, you must answer my questions if I insist. Is that correct?”
“That is correct, Lori.”
“Then I insist. I have to know. What will happen after I die? Is there a god? Is there a heaven? Tell me … tell me now.”
The room went dark. Lori strained to hear. She was determined to wait. Suddenly a light went on and she was looking into a room just like hers.
A young lady was adjusting her headphones and then she punched the “START HERE” button.
Lori remained in darkness, and with a calm, comforting voice she said, “Hello, my name is Lori. What is your name?”
For more information on the Three-Minute Fiction “very short story” competition, please visit wnij.org.