Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Worth a Thousand Words...

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by the ever-awesome site of Indie Ink. New contestants always welcome; new feedback and comments always welcome; not meeting deadlines never welcome...

Welcome to week 12.

Week 12.
My Challenger: Miranda
My Challenge: whatever you write you must use onomatopoeia in it somewhere
Who I am Challenging: Random Girl
What I Challenged Them With: A life lesson learned from an *extremely* unlikely source/event...

Worth a Thousand Words...

Definition by Webster's,
Enlightenment by Nature...
"What's this?" the young woman asked as she brushed away the dirt and dust.

"Why, it looks like... Yes, yes, my child, you have found it!"

"What?!" She straightened and stepped back, unsure if this was one of those "Yes! Step back!" moments or one of those "Yes! Bring it here!" moments. The first were far more often than she liked to admit, let alone experience.

The man knelt down on the dirt and slowly lifted the item, holding it with tweezers. "I never thought we'd find any evidence, and here it is!"

"Here is what?" she half-whispered, seeing the reverence in his eyes, the stillness of his fingers as they applied the just-right amount of pressure to secure the thing between the metal tongs. These moments were indeed rare, explosive, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and she had yet to figure out which of these it would be. She thought back to the time when they had been on Ares, when a similar item bearing analogous markings had been raised from the red soil--and scattered to the wind once it was freed from the soil. That had been a bad, bad day for them both. Not to mention the ridicule and charges of imagined evidence that had followed them for months.

Now they found themselves on Terra, supposed mythological home to the Second. As she let her gaze sweep over the brown, dusty landscape, she couldn't help but wonder if the myths were just that--myths.

"Draga, this--this," he said, his hands now quivering as he gently carried the item through the flaps of the nearby tent, "will prove that I've been right all along--come, come, quickly, inside!"

She shrugged, and followed him into the darkness, where she watched as he placed the item into a protective shield, then sealed it inside, preserving the item--

"Paper!" he said, the reverence still in place. "With actual, hand-written letters! Do you realize what this means?"

"Not really..." she trailed off.

She stepped closer to peer at the item, knowing now that she could set off fusionworks and the thing--paper--would be safe. She leaned down, making out scratches of color on the pale yellow surface. "I take it those are the... Um, 'letters'?"

"Yes, yes, silly child!" He rubbed his hands excitedly, unsure what to do now that he had his proof, his vindication. Now that his hands had placed the paper into safety, they seemed to have minds of their own, rubbing together, waving about, running through his hair...

"Oh, when my colleagues see this..."

She tried to keep from rolling her eyes. "Any chance we can figure out what these letters mean?"

"Oh, how silly of me! Yes, yes, hold on..." He wandered to the left side of the tent, picked up their helmets, and handed hers to her. "We'll download all of my research now--it's a lot, so take the painkillers or you'll end up with a hell of a headache. Once you're ready, navigate towards the com in the rear of the reality and press the orange key. That's where the information is stored." Then he had his helmet on and his body, released from conscious thought, collapsed on the chair behind him.

She eyed her helmet. She hated these trips across the ether, especially so far from home. She'd heard of consciousnesses being lost, carried away on the lightwaves of the universe, never to arrive in any body, anywhere. The teacher may think it all superstitious nonsense, but there were just too many stories to poo-poo the idea entirely.

"What are you waiting for?" He was back, obviously, as he raised his helmet off and stood back up. "Come on, we have much work to do! Get going!"

She sighed, sat, and placed the visor over her head. Closing her eyes, she reached up and engaged.

And then she was there, in his office back on Yiu. She wandered over to the consoles at the back, located the orange button, and pressed her fingers deep inside.

The teacher hadn't been kidding about the headache, as information zoomed into her brain: thoughts; ideas; images; pictures; vids; other conscious matter. She half-stumbled back across the office, sat back into the ether-chair, and in nanoseconds found herself back on Terra.

She let out the breath she had been holding.

"Draga, see this--and this?" He was pointing excitedly at the "paper," picking out symbols that apparently meant something. She shook her head, willing the downloaded information to quickly disseminate so she, too, could act as excited as he was.

"Yes... Yes, I do see..." she mumbled as she stared, the scratches starting to form coherent, logical meaning. "But--"


"Why-- I mean, what kind of civilization would try to place ideas in such a rudimentary form? I mean, all throughout the galaxy, all conscious minds work on images, pictures, intangible thoughts. What kind of being would use... You called them 'letters,' yes?"

"Exactly!" he cried. "These beings--they called themselves 'humans,' but you were taught 'the Second' in school--this was their main form of communication for centuries--eons, in fact! It's why they were classified as the Second. Their contributions to the races of sentients that followed are almost unparalleled, excepting, of course, the First. But that's hotly debated, as you know."

"With letters?"

"Yes!" he cried. "Evidence has been far and few between, granted. Once they perfected and harnessed the power of electricity, soon the hand-written word was replaced by the typed word, and then the light-scribed word, and so on. Most of this has been speculation, of course, as we only have our own records to fall back on to the earliest days of our races intermingling, near the end of the Second's time in this galaxy. By then they were so many millenia old, they had long since ceased with letters, written, typed, or otherwise!"

"But I fail to see how this archaic means of communication--"

"Think of this," he said, now thoroughly engaged in teacher mode. "Back into the recesses of time, long before our race, the Tenths, had even dreamed of space travel. We had long, long lists of images for communicating even the most basic of needs! The Second's had a few similar early cultures in which images served them instead of these letters--Cheenese, I believe they were called, something like that anyway--but even as we, the Tenth, were evolving almost in lock-step with the Second, they achieved so much more in such a shorter amount of time because they realized that not all images were viewed equally! Take our water picture, for instance. To some of the Second, it meant life, while to another Second it could mean wet, or where fish are found, or--"

"What's a 'fish'?"

"Never mind that! Don't you see? The Second realized that, until brain-transferring thought technology could be harnessed, where images and their conscious meanings could be sent to another leaving no doubt as to what was meant, they needed a system of communicating exact, specific, precise ideas!"

"So they knew in the future they would have brain-transferring thought technology?"

"Don't be stupid! Of course not! But through their evolution, they realized, unlike the evolution of our own cultures, that to create 'letters' to ascribe meaning in ways images could not, they had a better chance of communicating, which set the stage for them to be the Second! It was only by the merest of chances that the First came along before them! Fluke chance!"

She soaked all this in, melded it into the downloaded information she had received back in his office. "I guess I see what you're getting at..."

"Second, you know, was the culture that came up with the phrase, 'A picture is worth a thousand words.' And in that little phrase lies the whole of their successes!"


She stared at the paper, the first evidence of the Second's ancient form of "writing." Somehow she felt a bit dirty staring at something so old, as if it were beneath her to consider something so archaic as "grand."

She stared harder as her brain started making more sense out of more and more of the symbols. "Not much repetition..."

"No, and that was part of the genius. Twenty-six symbols, or letters, were all they needed to get even the most complex ideas across. Twenty-six! Compare that to our ancient image system thousands upon thousands of images deep!"

"What are these?"

"Those are 'numbers.' They sometimes used these symbols to shorten, or 'abbreviate,' if you will, so it would take even less letters to get the idea across."

"You have got to be kidding."

"Second was nothing if not succinct at times. Straight to the point, that's how they liked things. Something I think our species could take a lesson from." His eyes never left the paper, engaged in seemingly trying to memorize this document in case it's fate went that of the way the one on Ares had gone.

"And this--" he said, pointing at the paper behind the shield, "this is what truly made Second great."

She scanned through her brain database. "But-- that's not even... It's not..."

"Exactly!" he cried. "This is better than even I could have dreamed of finding!"

"These letters make no sense in that configuration though!" she cried. "How great can the Second have been if they couldn't even then get their letters in the right order? Or even the right combination of letters?!"

"Read the letters, don't simply stare at them," he urged.

"What? 'Read'?"

"You see this word? I read it as 'Brumrumrummmmrumrummmm'."

She stared at him blankly.

"If I read the entire line, or lines, I get the image in my head of thunder making noise over the horizon!"

"I don't follow! It's not a 'word' using their 'letters'."

"Oh, but it is, it is. One thing Second was great at was creativity. And realizing that sometimes even their known letters and words failed them when trying to get across an idea, they made it up!"


"They knew what sounds each letter made. So they would throw the letters together to convey the sound! It's called--or at least I think they called that, an 'onomatopoeia'. When they threw letters together to convey the image they had no exact word for! Whether out of reverence for such basic sounds and noises I suppose we'll never know."

"Sounds like the silliest--"

"Oh, but it's not, and here's why," the teacher stated emphatically. "How would you communicate the quiet whisper of the wind? How would you know whether it was a breeze before a storm, or a breeze bringing relief to a sweltering day?"

"I'd just... Well, you just know. You look at the sky, you watch the weather vids, you..." She trailed off.

"Ah, but with a simple, quiet spelling of "sssshhhh through the trees," using the Second's letters, all humans knew! And if it was a 'fictional' story, they couldn't very well watch the weather vids to know what the human was trying to convey, could they?"

"Well, they could watch the vids of the story--"

"Not all stories had vids in their cultures."

"And you're sure they are worthy of such praise?"

"You have no idea..."

Previous Challenges I have answered:
[Week 1: All of Me] [Week 2: Child's End]
[Week 3: Seeking Bonds] [Week 4: Just So You Know]
[Week 5: Justice & Mercy] [Week 6: Tale of a Fateful Flick]
[Week 7: Hell or High Water] [Week 8: Streaming Summer]
[Week 9: Piss & Vinegar] [Week 10: Set It Free]
[Week 11: Four Horsemen, Three Gods, a Transgendered Devil, and Lazarus Under a Pear Tree...]


Miranda @ My Eclectic Bookshelf said...

great job! Loved this, what a creative way to incorporate the challenge! Bravo!

Mandy said...

You're so awesome. I love this.

Lazidaisical said...

I always love your stories! Great job!

Jason Hughes said...

Thanks so much everyone!