Would you rather be rich, successful, healthy, or famous? Why?
Urban legends are cool, right? It's a tall tale that gets passed around or down from generation to generation about a something that makes their neighborhood special. But these days no hoods last forever, and with those changes, the legends die. Trey Fields had spent his whole life in about a ten block radius of his home in Baltimore. He was old enough to know where to go and where not to go. His older brother and de-facto parent had schooled him at young age about the proper ways to handle yourself. Those lessons included who to talk to and who to avoid.
He didn't know much about his dad, other than he was currently serving time upstate. He learned around age seven that meant prison. The unseen benefit of his father being way created a bubble for his family. They were able to move freely whenever and wherever they wanted. He didn't think to much of it, because it didn't effect him. He reckoned one day he would look back on how naive he was, but for now as a fourteen year old boy. In fact he was happy being the quiet, nerdy kid who liked to read.
His favorite pastime was hanging out at the corner barbershop. He knew it was cliche and a tired troupe of his community, but that didn't stop the stories and conversations from being real. His brother worked their part time doing the sweeping and cleaning. While the owner liked Trey, because they shared a passion for literature. His brother failed to see the value in reading. He argued you can see or learn everything on your phone with Youtube and that was much easier than reading. This short-sightedness was fine with Trey.
But he didn't understand the allure of a story, sure videos could showed you world, but in Trey's mind he felt, tasted, EXPERIENCED the worlds in his books. I mean he could spend the day at Hogwarts, or in the land of Hobbits, or in the fictional Oasis, or maybe we wanted to see what it was like to relieve Churchills first year in office in a bunker while Germany place flew overhead and air raid sirens rang in his ear.
Sometimes however the stories were better heard first hand. Which is why he loved tucking himself in the back corner of the shop and listening to the buzz of the clippers and the quick fire banter of customers. One particular story always resonated with Trey and the tall tale varied depending on who was telling it, but the story of the Concrete Genie or the Charm City Oracle, was quite the urban legend.
Trey preferred Walt Sr, an older patron who usually came every other Tuesday to get his beard lined up and his neck trimmed, version the best. Walt claims to have met the Oracle in his youth and to this day attributes his outstanding healthy to his one encounter. According to Walt, this is the way it goes..
It only happens around dusk, at a time when it's not too cold and not too hot. A single beacon of light will reflect off the water in the bay and illuminate a path for the chosen. Now to get chosen, you have to do something worthy of an audience. Walt claims his act was giving his lunch to an elderly gentleman the day before. But what ever you do it, it has to be a truly selfless act. Which is what makes it so hard, because if you know head of time that are you trying to do something to see the Oracle, then it can never truly be a selfless act.
So, if you have done the truly selfless act and therefore been chosen, the light will shimmer over one alley, which you have to enter alone. The oracle only sees one at a time. Upon entering the ally a shadowy figure emerges and declares you are worth. He or she asks if you are willing to accept the consequences of your decision. Of course you say you do, and then he says the following. Which also kinda changes with each story teller.
I stand before you to offer you a choice of dire consequence.
I will grant one of the following:
A life of good and outstanding health,
An existence of immense wealth,
Or the fame acknowledgment from around the world.
Chose carefully for the means to end could be your undoing.
It was always the last line that intrigued Trey the most, because this is where the oracle became something sinister. Often in literature the serpent or villain of a story hides in plain sight, this tale was no different. This line implied a transaction, a deal with the devil, because Trey had learned at an early age, nothing came without a cost. His families freedom had cost their father his freedom. No one who would offer you something so great without their being a catch. Anyway, Back to Walt's story.
He explained that he had heard of the oracle before and knew of the tales of others. Plus a friend of his cousin chose wealth and he was murdered three years later. Albeit after winning the lottery and sixth trifectas in a row at the dog track. So Walt, being a shy person by nature, decided the only choice for him was the a lifetime of being healthy. So he took the health and he doesn't look a day over 55. Yet he's nearly 95. And Walt like the natural story teller he is delivers this line with aplomb. The entire shop erupts with chorus of laughter and razzin' calling Walt crazy. However Trey did know him, in fact he'd seen his driver's license and he wasn't lying.
He moved like a 30 year old on the basketball court, and besides the whispers of grey in his beard and sideburns you would never know he was about to turn 100. But Walt liked it that way. One evening he walked Trey home because his brother was still busy at the shop. Trey had some many questions to ask him about the oracle but he refrained until they reached his apartment building stoop. He asked him when will you know it's your time and doesn't he get bored? Walt paused for a moment and looked wisp-fully off into the distance. He responded, he wasn't sure but he had spent his life looking for his one true love and still she alluded him. Funny he thought aloud, I got all the time in the world, but no one to share it with. He smile and patted Trey on the shoulder and headed off down the street.
Maybe it was because Trey had spent so much time reading or he was just smarter than most people his age, but he was not fascinated by the Oracle and the promise of the grand expectations, but the cost. Until that day he had thought Walt beat the devil and chose correctly, but he was wrong. You don't beat the devil at his own game, he just finds another way to win. Walt would have his health till he took it himself or some else did, but he would never find the only thing he ever wanted. The devil of Charm city took his one true love.