|The Day the Language Died
Author: Xerophyte PM
A dystopian short story a la Fahrenheit 451. When letters replace syllables and syllables replace words, where has all the language gone?Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror - Words: 1,156 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 4 - Published: 01-23-09 - id: 2625866
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I cannot possibly tell you how irritating it is to type in text speak.
"Which way to the subway?" I asked her. She looked friendly enough, even though everyone here looked stranger than in my day, and my day had seen some pretty strange fashions. Furry boots reminiscent of the animals they were made from that were better befitting Eskimos than suburban teens, the underside of a polo shirt revealing words like "brat" and "princess" when popped…things had changed a lot since my day. And to think that my day was only two years ago.
"Uhh, dat way," she said as she pointed in a circular fashion somewhere off to the left, not even looking up from her cell phone, its light illuminating her face under the din of the hotel awning.
"I'm sorry, where?" I replied. She finally looked up at me with wary eyes and sighed, irritated, thumbs still dancing an elaborate pattern across the cell phone keyboard. It was then I noticed her eyes. Her eyelids were painted with a sickly white-silver sheen and her eyes were the palest of icy, sickly blues. As she looked back down at her text messaging, her make-up normalised again.
"Over. There. Cant u read?" She gestured to a large street sign with a picture of a subway car and an arrow. 2 s-way, it read. I looked up at the nearest billboard. Lol w/ ur frndz Spearz Clubz! Beside the message was a glitzy image of who I assumed was yet another version of Brittany Spears, obviously overhauled since I'd last seen her image in a tabloid. I looked across the street at the crosswalk sign, the top frame showing a movie clip of pedestrians safely crossing the street. But as the light changed, the bottom frame played another clip of the same pedestrians being completely obliterated by oncoming cars, blood spurting everywhere, followed by the words FAIL! PWND!
I looked back at her in shock and horror. "Where have all the words gone?" I inquired in a panicked half-whisper.
"Idk. Its just like dat now." Her fingers didn't even miss a beat. It was only then, staring down at her fingers and following their path to her shoulders, chest, waist, and legs that I noticed her clothing. She wore a black strapless terrycloth contraption, made specifically to leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. Her breasts were pushed up practically to her chin, and the rear of her dress mentioned some brand name in big pink letters, accentuating everything. It was then I realised she couldn't have been more than fourteen.
What had happened those two years I was away at Oxford for college?
"Why are all the signs movies? Where did all the words go?"
"All the wrds go 2 here," she said, finally looking up again and gesturing to her cell phone. I looked at the dialogue of about two hundred texts she had sent since the time I had inquired about the subway. Its k. u kno y? lol no wai. Goin 2 shop nao. Brb sum1 verbin at me. Omg r u srius?
There was a long pause, and she continued her texting, completely unaware that I was still by her side. I dared to ask the question plaguing my mind. When I spoke again, I could have been a completely separate person and she wouldn't have noticed, absorbed in the weak blue light of her cell phone.
"Can you take me to the library?" I asked. Surely there had to be one somewhere.
"The library. You know, big shelves with books? Old ladies in pilly sweaters and wire-rimmed glasses?"
"Oh! Sure. Why u want to go wher the mean ladies r?"
I simply shook my head, and she led me across the picture-show crosswalk and down several side streets to a musty-looking building a few blocks away. The heavy wooden door creaked loudly as I opened it. Relieved, I stepped back into the stacks labelled "archives" and pulled out a heavy volume.
"What is this?!?" I exclaimed. A glossy-looking tabloid fell out and opened a few pages from its centre article, How 2 luk xxxy in bed!, with full-colour glossy photographs and a timeline of that week's sexiest outfits. "luks change w/ the hour. Better be n styl!"
"Don't you have books?" I asked her. She looked up again.
"They tried 2 translat Twilight to us a few weeks ago. It was 2 hard, w/ all those extra ltrs." She sighed. "I read alot, though. Alot of the classics."
I cocked an eyebrow. "Faulkner? Hemmingway? Bronte?" There was a glimmer of hope.
"No. 2 hard," she replied. "Ive read the Bible, though."
"Yeah," she responded. "I kno the ten commandments. Thou shall not kill a joke. Everyones funny these days. Thou shall not grow a mullet. Thou shall not wear last months clothes. Thou shall not—"
"That's the Bible?"
"Yeah. Werent u raised n good Christian valus? Jesus said all that stuff, right alng w/ not squishin unborn babies heads n not lettin those gay people marry. Thats just wrong."
"How do you know that?"
"Idk. Thats just the way it is. Thats wat they told us in Pre-K."
"Have you actually read the Bible?"
"I hav the eBook on my iPod!" She rummaged through her mamoth zebra-printed purse, only to be interrupted by the cling of her cell-phone's alert. "OMG! I hav 2 run home an change! Thes pumps r not n nemore an I need the latest newsppr! I hav g2g!"
"OK! Magazine! They hav 2 tell me wats goin on w/ Brangelina an it jus came out 2 mins ago! I cant beliv ther still a cupl. Thev been arnd 4 4 yrs. Isnt tht so looooong?! Thers mor news. I need sum1 2 tell me wat jeans 2 buy next."
She never noticed that I'd already left.
Eight days later there was a blurb on the very back page of OK! with my picture next to it. 22 yr old teen lol no more, dead w/ bad fashin, it read, and in broken, fragmented letters and numbers that used to be the English language described my suicide. I had found several discarded silk scarves in a bin outside my newly acquired apartment around noon. People were rushing to stores to buy the pink and green ones—orange and red were so out. The paper described in pretty little pictures how I had hung myself, choking on my own words. The last words ever spoken.