Qualia Corporation executives blanched and grew queasy when their AI revealed the details of its latest proposal. “Quiddity,” as the company had named the AI, had designed a process, and the necessary equipment, by which the Shroud of Turin could be replicated accurately down to a molecular level. The executives’ discomfort was caused by the alarming dollar amount of the gift Quiddity estimated would be necessary to obtain a loan of the actual Shroud. But Quiddity’s earlier projects had succeeded in spectacular fashion, even though their counterintuitive nature had caused much consternation, so management put their faith in the master plan as presented.
The Shroud was borrowed with no public fanfare, in the proscribed manner, and employees were coached to participate in the project without asking questions. Equipment was fabricated to specifications, analysis of the target Shroud was performed, and finally, eleven exact replicas of the Shroud were produced. These, along with the original, were then taken to an industrial laundry service. There they were all loaded into a huge dryer and tumbled for one hour on a “cool air” setting. When they were removed, it was clear to all present that henceforth it would be impossible to distinguish the original Shroud from the other examples.
One of the Shrouds was returned to the original owners. When they discovered what the Qualia company had done, there was a lawsuit, of course. But the suit proved difficult to win when it was pointed out that the owners themselves had been loath to affirm the “authenticity” of the Shroud at the time it was loaned, relative to the many claims of miraculous origins made by those very people who generated the accepted value of the artifact.
The owners of the original Shroud had learned of the scheme when the Qualia Corporation initiated exhibitions of their eleven shrouds in museums in large cities around the world. In the lobby of each museum, a video booth was set up and patrons were invited to record heartfelt impressions of their viewing experience. Thus it was demonstrated that one-in-twelve odds were not a problem with respect to a believer’s certainty that the Shroud they had observed had to be the Real One. This boosted the appraised value of all eleven Shrouds, such that the corporation was able to leverage the assets for new project loans.
Of course other companies developed design AIs, so it wasn’t long before a maker of draperies and bed linens began to offer exact reproductions of the Shroud, along with an interesting marketing argument. They noted that the Holy Trinity is regarded as one God—so why might a sacred relic not be millions of examples and yet one thing at the same time?
Sales were brisk. And the executives at Qualia Corporation began to wonder about the loyalty of Quiddity.
—Finalist in “The Question of Questions” Ekphrastic Writing Challenge
has taught creative writing and literature at The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of North Texas, and the Writer’s Garret, in Dallas. He now lives in Marfa, Texas. He is the author of This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press), Winter Investments: Stories (Trilobite Press), and Prairie Shapes: A Flash Novel (winner of the 2004 Robert J. DeMott Prose Contest). His poems, short stories, and creative nonfictions have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, including Blink Ink, Cutbank, Eastern Iowa Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Star 82 Review, and Third Wednesday, among others.
⚡ Spring, microfiction by Daryl Scroggins in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 12, March 2022)
⚡ Writer Boy, microfiction by Scroggins in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 4, July 2020); nominated by MacQ for Best Microfiction 2021
⚡ Face of the Deep, ekphrastic prose poem in MacQ (Issue 3, May 2020)
⚡ Field Trips, flash fiction in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)
⚡ New to School, microfiction in Eclectica (Jan/Feb 2018)
⚡ Two Fictions: “Almost Baptized” and “Against the Current” in New Flash Fiction Review (Issue 10, January 2018)
⚡ Eight Stories: A Mini-Chapbook at Web del Sol