Sunday, May 17, 2009
The task that befell the High Office was to assemble a mission to conduct a methodical search for the lost island. It was a decision that many in the High Office dreaded. So when the paper with the order arrived - by official post so that the regular excuses for endless delay would not hold the slightest water - dread gave way to exasperation. A committee was put together hastily, leaves were cancelled, lights were switched on for working deep into the hours of night, and they threw themselves into the Archives in search of potential members for such a mission. They studied the tales of Jason and the Argonauts, the Odyssey, the Aineiad; and took notes of a thorough list of skills that a team ought to combine; unmatched mastery in the martial arts, superhuman navigational instinct, indomitable courage, unparalleled engineering genius, and most importantly, formidable psychic powers that could bend space-time at will. The Committee went through the phone book and called a few numbers. In the following days a long line of applicants appeared outside the High Office’s office building, a twisting snake of eagerly-awaiting hopefuls. Centuries later, when word of the island’s whereabouts and the fate of the mission finally reached our world, it became clear that the selection process was erratic, not to put it in any finer words. It was said that among the crew a certain fellow, a borrowed soul from a novel not yet written, a conjurer of dreams, was destined to lead the mission through the most treacherous of waters, and that it was thanks to him that the mission did not lose its way completely, that it managed to circumnavigate the Sea of Emotions and the Spheres of Galactic Apprehension and then ride on the spiral Nebulas of Ignorance, and then…Oh, but their story never ends. And in so far as that dreamer fellow is concerned, the Archives speak mostly of his infamous talent; to enter minds like a worm enters a fruit, to burrow all the way to their nucleus, to see things that no mind could ever see by itself. His name was Cyrus.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
It began as a simple translation. The civil servants who still resided idly at the Archives, not having anything better to do with their time, spending their working hours doing no work at all, decided to practice their language skills. They chose a text at random. (No one knows what the initial text was). At first, the text was translated in a language that one of them had a very sketchy, knowledge of. In fact, he had knowledge only of its existence, not of the language itself. Luckily, in the Archives, there was a grammar book written by a dead scholar, a singular world expert in that forgotten language, and the servants used it as a guide. A peculiar characteristic of that language was that verbs migrated. Perhaps because the people who originally spoke that language were migrants too, lost souls wandering the vastness of grassy steppes. Their spoken words travelled up and down their sentences, as if the horizon was nowhere, changing their meaning, as one would have to do if one lived inside an immutable medium. For example, if one intended to say “tomorrow I will meet you at the battlefield,” but changed his mind half way while uttering the sentence, he could simply transpose the verb, and the sentence could read any odd perturbation such as, “the battle is for tomorrow but I will not be there”, or “tomorrow is a fine day to battle”, or “meet me tomorrow and we shall see what happens”, etc.
At first, the civil servants found their game an amusing one. The initial text was made to mean increasingly different things, verbs jumped sentences as if by their own will, and every time they translated back and forth, the text – or should we now set texts – became alive, like a swarm, like a superorganism, a like a nest of nomadic ants seeking a place to entomb their colony. Several days later, the merriness of the civil servants that was to be heard by passers-by, as they played their language game and laughed at the ever more meaningless results, ceased. No one paid attention at the beginning, assuming that the servants had become bored at long last, and had fled the Archives, for there was no reason for them to be there in the first place, the whole Civil Service having been defunct since the island’s disappearance. When they were found, years later, or eons, or tomorrow in the battle, they met.