ysabetwordsmith: (Schrodinger's Heroes)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the June 3, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "traveling" square in my 5-22-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Schrodinger's Heroes project.


"In Drab Silence"


Schrodinger's Heroes had encountered
a lot of strange things and stranger people
while traveling through the manifold
or dealing with other travelers
whose perambulations brought them
into the Teflon Tesseract.

They had visited a swamp
whose residents farted in code.
They had visited a jungle
where everyone talked by holding hands,
to Pat's considerable enthusiasm.

They had met an incursion of viral speakers
whose "Hello! We come in peace!"
had left everyone sick for a week,
and another of anthropomorphic cats
("Schrodinger! You're up!") with twin tails.

Then there had been the robotic race
who looked and sounded rather like
a collection of reed organs,
which had necessitated Chris trying
to talk with them through his harmonica.

This time it was another incursion,
although it seemed to be peaceful.
Chris dubbed them Disco Spiders
for their many legs and glittering abdomens
flecked with shifting spots of silver and gold.

Alex started with English but got no response.
Ash tried her Diné and some Plains Indian Sign,
followed by Quinn in French, Kay in Spanish,
then Morgan's Japanese and ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.

The Disco Spiders responded to none of these.

"Okay, Tim, it's your turn,"
Morgan said with a wave of his hand.

Tim said nothing, his tentacles
slowly tying and untying themselves
as the colors of the Texan countryside
played over his skin in slow camouflage ripples.

The Disco Spiders leaped to their feet, flickering eagerly.

Tim turned to his teammates and explained,
"As they did not respond to your efforts
with spoken or gestured language,
I suspected they might be communicating
with shifts of color instead."

"Wonderful," Chris said,
looking at his plain pink skin,
"the rest of us are all mute."

"Well, Tim is a capable diplomat,"
Alex said. "I'm sure he'll do fine
even without direct help from us."

"I'll be back in a few minutes,"
Quinn said, and trotted away.

So the rest of the team sat there
in drab silence while Tim attempted
to carry on negotiations by himself.

It seemed to be going well,
but it was difficult to tell for sure;
the linguistic analysis program
that Alex and Ash used was not
configured for chromatic conversation.

Quinn came back lugging an enormous suitcase,
which he opened to reveal many tiny packages.
"Makeup! Body paint! Prosthetic language!"
he exclaimed as he took off his shirt
and began decorating himself.

"Okay," Pat said,
"I can work with that."

* * *

Notes:

Reed organs came before the modern electronic kind.

The appearance of the Disco Spiders was inspired by Mosaic Spiders.

Diné Bizaad is the native Navajo language. Listen to a sample of Diné Bizaad.

Plains Indian Sign once spanned most of Turtle Island as the auxiliary language of traders and travelers. Watch a video of it, "Our Father."

ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi is the native language of Hawai'i. Listen to a sample of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.

See, this is why you need diversity on a hero team: you never know who's going to have what it takes to connect with the new guys. The more diverse your team, the more cards you have to play before you run out. The more plays you can make, the less likely it will end in a shootout.


(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-08 09:01 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chordatesrock
Will we see more about the disco spiders?

Also, are all those references at the beginning to existing stories? *goes looking*

The next bits!

Date: 2014-06-08 09:28 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
The NEXT BITS!

Argh, I want to see!

(LOL.) Thank you SO MUCH for posting this one-- it's good to see Tim get more than a mention!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-09 06:48 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Janet Kagan's HellSpark also features non-vocal language as one of its major subplots. If you haven't read it, I recommend it highly -- it's an anthropological study wrapped around a murder mystery wrapped around a first-contact story, and reading it blew my mind open in a way that very few books ever have.

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