Tracy took a bite of her cotton candy and chewed without enthusiasm. Brad stared straight ahead as they trudged along the midway. They had spent a lot of money on the games, Brad winning Tracy a stuffed crocodile at last.
It was a hot, muggy night at the carnival. They had both hoped that a night of amusement might heal the rift between them but it was coming to naught. To top matters off an electrical storm was threatening but Tracy wanted to ride some of the rides and Brad knew better than to argue.
Soon the lightening began, the sky lit up like a cosmic fireworks display. No rain fell so they stopped by some arcade games and watched the show.
“Damn, that’s impressive”
Tracy gazed at the sky. She was leaning against a fortune telling machine just outside of a tent as she watched. Without warning a bolt of lightening struck the top of the tent pole, the electricity running down the roof poles and into the machine Tracy was leaning against.
She felt a strong jolt run along her arm and she was thrown to the ground. Brad picked her up and looked at her.
“Are you all right Tracy?”
She felt light headed but otherwise unfazed. “Yeah. Wow, that was something.”
They both heard a crackling noise behind and turned to see that the machine was lit up as though someone had put a coin in it. They walked over to it. The front of the glass said Zoltar Speaks. The bearded figure inside wore a turban. His eyes were bright red and as they watched his mouth moved and he addressed them.
“I am Zoltar. You may ask me anything you like. I will respond with the truth.”
They looked at each other and back at the machine. Brad’s eyes were wide.
“How the hell did that happen? You think the lightening fried it somehow?”
Tracy moved closer to the machine. Zoltar’s eyes followed her. “You have a question?”
She jumped back and stared. “Brad, how can that thing know I’m thinking about asking it a question?”
“Tracy, we should just go ride something. C’mon, let’s get out of here.”
“No, I want to see what this is about.”
She walked back up to the machine. “Zoltar, what is my birthday?”
The head shifted to her voice and addressed her. “March 16th, 1991.”
She stared at Brad. “Oh my god.”
She turned back to the machine. “How many children will I have?”
“You will have no children.”
She felt her face redden. “What do you mean? What a horrible thing to say. I’ve always wanted a large family.”
Brad couldn’t believe what was happening. “C’mon Tracy, something isn’t right about this. That thing has no way of knowing anything. Let’s get out of here.”
Zoltar turned and faced Brad. “I am all knowing. I can speak only the truth.”
Tracy was undeterred. “Oh yeah? Well then, how many children will Brad have?”
“He will have two children.”
Tracy turned on Brad, a look of scorn on her face. “So we aren’t going to get married. See, I knew you were stalling the engagement because you didn’t want to marry me. You’re a liar, Bradley Roberts.”
“Tracy, for god’s sake, it’s just a stupid carnival machine. It’s just saying what it’s programmed to say.”
Zoltar spoke again. “I speak only the truth. I can tell you everything there is to know about your lives. Would you like to know the time and date of your death?”
They both stood speechless. Fear began to overtake them. Zoltar’s mouth opened to speak again and Brad grabbed Tracy by the hand and began to run. As they fled he heard Zoltar speak.
“Tracy will die at 10:07 p.m.”
He hoped Tracy hadn’t heard what the machine had said. They ran until they reached the midway and stood watching the rides. Tracy was shivering and stood with her arms crossed. Brad tried to lighten the mood.
“Hey, you wanted to ride, pick something out and we’ll go on it.”
“Not right now. I can’t believe what happened back there. That thing said I would never have any children. It said you…” She trailed off and turned away.
At a loss for words Brad put his hands in his pockets and stared at the ground.
“I gotta take a leak. I’ll be back in a few, okay?”
Tracy nodded and watched him go. She watched the lightening in the sky for a minute and then walked over to the Ferris wheel. No one was on it. The ride operator was checking her out.
“Want a free ride?”
“Sure, why not. I’ll bet the lightening looks awesome from up there.”
She got on and when she reached the top she stared at the night sky. It was a beautiful display. The wheel had just passed the upper limit when a bolt of lightening hit the centre of the mechanism and dislodged the entire wheel and it came crashing down on its side.
Brad was just returning when it happened. He watched the whole thing in horror. He stared at Tracy’s lifeless body as the crew that had come running over pulled it from the wreckage. The next day the tragedy made the front page of the paper. Brad sat at the kitchen table surrounded by his family; his father was looking at the paper.
“It’s a terrible thing son. She shouldn’t have been on that wheel in that weather. They should have shut it down. It says here the operator couldn’t explain why he let her on it. Says he just got a sudden feeling that she should have a ride. It’s the strangest thing. Wonder what got into that kid?”
Brad took the paper from his father and looked at the opening paragraph. A chill ran through him as he read the first line and remembered the last thing he had heard from the fortune telling machine.
“A bolt of lightening struck the Ferris wheel at the carnival last night at 10:07 p.m.”
He put the paper aside and made up his mind to never speak of that night again.