No Answer

The riddle couldn’t be answered. The woman who wrote it became a god. Published in a little column for a website, it wasn’t anything more than a game—something to pass the time. Then, word began to spread that it was unsolvable. No one knew what the answer was. Scientists, Academics, puzzle writers, all tried to take cracks at it, but to no avail. Requests began to pour in: “what was the answer?” “Why won’t you tell us the answer?” “Please don’t leave us in the dark.” “Tell us what you know.” For a brief time, exaltation ensued: “Look what has been created!” “Look at the genius here!” “What a mind, to have thought of something like this!” Soon, the requests became demands: “You will tell us what the answer is, do you hear me?!” Etc., etc.

First, she was forced to abandon the internet. Like getting out of the water, she assumed that would solve the problem of sharks. However, her address snuck into public knowledge, and soon people were standing around, waiting to ask. Like before, the first were tentative and nice: “I was just wondering if…” “it’s become something really important to me…” “my father wants to know before his illness gets the better of him.” But like before, the niceties only lasted so long as the seeker’s patience. Frustrated inquisitors began egging the house and writing horrid phrases across her walls. Different factions set up outside of the house—those that demanded an answer, and those who opposed the demanders. They collected earlier and earlier in the day, each side bringing their own signs, their own slogans. The demanders wanted access to the knowledge from the source, those that opposed them thought the riddle was meant to be solved by the rest of us. It was a test—something for us all to work through. The demanders accused the other faction—now referred to as the “solvers”—of being weak.

One night, the woman who wrote the riddle slipped out of her house through an underground tunnel she had been digging past the front lines of the picketers. Her ticket already purchased, she got on a bus, which took her four towns over, where there was a major airport. From there, she bought a ticket to another country, and from that country took a ship, then a small boat, deep away from what one might consider “the grid.” Yet even there she was found. A wildlife camera caught her wandering through the woods on her way to get water. Those who saw the image eventually recognized her, and a small party went searching. When they found the only shack in those woods, she was seated outside on the porch. Her eyes seemed a thousand years old. The small party said “we have come all this way. We would like to know the answer to the riddle. Please tell us.” To this, the woman laughed for a long time. The party looked puzzled, and they wondered if maybe this meant good news for them. Until, that is, she said this: “I forgot.”