The Middle, the Beginning, and the End

Started 05-14-06 11:37PM

Finished 05-15-06 12:41AM

by David Reagan

 

I was in the middle of some routine trans universal paperwork when my communications curtain chimed. Thankful for the break, I jumped up and answered it. Flickering there in the folds was my old frined. He was something like an old friend, but somewhat different. “Well, hello there my old frined!” I greeted him. “What brings you to my draperies?”

“Hey you old wizard! You gypped me!”

“gypped you? How did gypsies get involved? I have never been one around you.”

“No no! gypped me, as in ripped me off, you scammed me, conned me, get the point?”

“Oh, that, um, I don't remember doing that.”

“Why you...” He went on in an accusatory vein of vitriol for the next hour. Really, the number of synonyms he found for being gypped was phenomenal. Of course there were at least twenty different languages represented, but still, it was quite the accomplishment. Plus, he never once uttered a single offensive word. I still have that conversation recorded. Listen to it whenever someone has annoyed me and I need a good comeback without using bad language. Eventually I cut him off to ask him how I had gypped him. He told me that the translation headband I had given him was not working correctly for the local people he was trying to con.

“Really? It isn't working anymore? When did this start to happen?” I asked.

My old frined thought for a few minutes. “Hmm... you know, I don't remember.”

I then took him through some basic troubleshooting on the device. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the thing. So, I pulled out my spell cap and capped myself to his location.

After the requisite welcoming kicks to the stomach between old frineds, I used my cap to make the translation spells on the device stronger. Then put it on and headed to the city to test it. Once there I spoke to the first local I saw. “Hello, can you understand me?”

The local responded, but I could only make out a little bit before the device jumped off my head and ran away. What I could make out was this: “Hawt idd oyu asy? I nncaot ersundtand oyu.”

Needless to say, I was rather confused. After a few hours chasing the headband, I ran a few more tests. Everything seemed fine, it just would freak whenever the locals talked. I finally got desperate enough that I jumped to a nearby universe and tested the band there. It worked fine. The subsequent five tests later, it still worked fine. Finally I even went to the home of the Seeboks.

To understand how desperate I was, you need to understand how horrifying Seeboks are. See, they are my worst nightmare. And not without good reason. When I was first exploring the multiverse I once spent five hundred years or so trapped on their world. The Seeboks were absolutely estasic that I was there. Their intentions were perfectly fine. I mean I was the first visitor they had had in a good ten thousand years. Hmm... I should tell you what they look like I guess. Just hope I don't lose my dinner thinking about it. Ok, here goes. When you first meet one, they are humanoid in shape to keep communication simple. But as they talk more, their tentacles start to move out of that shape. Soon every word is changed by the different configurations of tentacles. It results in the most complicated language I know of. So imagine being greeted by thousands of humanoids in psychedelic colors that start undulating with tentacles. For a good five days straight. I was scarred for life by that experience.

But that wasn't the worst of it. See with the number of sounds they can make combined with the shapes they can assume with their tentacles, the Seeboks have the most complicated language in the multiverse. Plus they are extremely deep thinkers. They can lay out their ideas and thoughts in the most precise terms imaginable. And they do so all the time. I mean, I once asked one if it would like a drink of water. A simple yes or know answer. It took five hours for it to answer. It said yes, but with about a thousand qualifications that made no sense to me.

Well, back to the headband. I was perfectly conversant in the Seeboks language, but I figured it would be the ultimate test for my translator. If it could translate that, there couldn't be ANYTHING wrong with it. So, the Seeboks had their second visitor in five thousand years or so. Suffice to say, it worked. But it took my old frined five days to nurse me back to health.

The ultimate test complete, I headed back to the problem planet. A few hours later I was completely flummoxed. Nothing anyone of the locals said made any sense at all. Plus it scared the poor headband horribly. Though I was able to make it stay on my head for an extended period of time. I think it was tired from the Seeboks.

I was sitting on top of one of the cities towers when I noticed something odd. Their ground vehicles behaved very strangely. When one would appear, it would always appear in the middle of the block. Then it would seem to jump the the beginning, and then to the end. It was extremely odd. Soon I noticed that all their buildings had their entrances in the middle, instead of at the bottom. Deciding the investigate this oddity further I dropped to the ground. The building that I had been sitting on was a library. So I leapt up the the middle and went in. Picking up a book I flipped through it. Of course my headband didn't do any good. So I watched the other patrons. A little boy picked up a book and opened it directly to the middle. A few page turns later he turned to the front. A few more page turns and he turned to the back. It was then that the proverbial lighting hit me. Though the exploding light bulb above my head made it a bit less proverbial.

Everyone in the library was reading the books from the middle to the beginning, to the end. Not in the usual order of from the beginning, to the middle, to the end. Quickly grabbing the most basic children's book I could see I opened it to a picture of a spotted dog running. There on the page was the text “Ese Post urn.” Quickly pulling out a piece of paper I rearranged the letters in the sentence to read: “See Spot run.”

Grinning in triumph I waved my spell cap and told the translator headband to place the middles before the beginnings. Replacing the band on my head, I marched over to librarian and said, “Can you understand me?”

She looked at me oddly, “Yes sir, I can. Is there something I can do for you?”

I bowed to her with a flourish of my spell cap, “No thank you Madam, your wonderful library has already solved my problem.”

With that I popped back to where my old frined was standing. “Here you are you old frined! It is fixed!”

 

Author's Note:

Forgive the poor punctuation that I am sure exists. It is late at night and I can't really see it... Hope you enjoyed!