Friday, January 07, 2005

Seven; Wine Gums Make It All Clear

"Do you understand?" asked Old Red.

"Yes, I do," I said, not quite understanding what was happening.

"Good," Old Red rubbed his hands together and smiled, "We were worried the formula might not work. Are you getting all of this?"

"Yes," I nodded, "But I don't understand what you're talking about."

"Never mind that," said Old Red. "The how isn't as important as the why."

I looked at him blankly.

"That's translator magic," he nodded at me, and it took me a moment to realise he meant the wine gum I had just consumed, "It enables you to understand us, and us to understand you. Very clever stuff. Of course it has been years since we've had a subject to test it on. The people of Zugar-Zipperat all speak Zippacka, so we couldn't very well test it on them could we?" He shook his head in answer to his own question, "Of course not, we all already understand each don't we. Even the outer tribes," he added in a lower voice, "though only barely."

One of the guards coughed.

"Yes, quite right," said Old Red.

I continued to look at him blankly.

"One of our biggest fears was the next time somebody came through we wouldn't be able to understand them. Wouldn't know if they were friend or foe, you see. The last one to come through was kept under constant guard while it learnt Zippacka. Took it nearly three years as well. And then in the end it turned out it wasn't even supposed to be here."

I had to fight an urge to look at my wrist watch.

"Of course you won't need to learn the language will you?"

"Ah, no," I said, "I guess not." I stole a quick look at my watch after all, "Look it has been great meeting you guys, I've had heaps of fun, we really must do this again some time, but for now if you could just show me the way home, I'll be on my way. Homer is probably sitting on my doorstep waiting for me." I didn't feel bad lying about having a doorstep, I'd already lied about having a dog called Homer so I figured it didn't matter what I said, as long as they sent me home.

"Unfortunately we won't be able to do that," Old Red looked a little abashed.

"Why not?" I asked frantically.

"Well," he continued and forced a happy smile onto his face, "because you're under arrest. Guards seize that," he frowned for a second then said, "Seize that whatever it is."


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