The nomadic texts

It began as a simple translation. The civil servants who still resided idly at the Archives, not having anything better to do with their time, spending their working hours doing no work at all, decided to practice their language skills. They chose a text at random. (No one knows what the initial text was). At first, the text was translated in a language that one of them had a very sketchy, knowledge of. In fact, he had knowledge only of its existence, not of the language itself. Luckily, in the Archives, there was a grammar book written by a dead scholar, a singular world expert in that forgotten language, and the servants used it as a guide. A peculiar characteristic of that language was that verbs migrated. Perhaps because the people who originally spoke that language were migrants too, lost souls wandering the vastness of grassy steppes. Their spoken words travelled up and down their sentences, as if the horizon was nowhere, changing their meaning, as one would have to do if one lived inside an immutable medium. For example, if one intended to say “tomorrow I will meet you at the battlefield,” but changed his mind half way while uttering the sentence, he could simply transpose the verb, and the sentence could read any odd perturbation such as, “the battle is for tomorrow but I will not be there”, or “tomorrow is a fine day to battle”, or “meet me tomorrow and we shall see what happens”, etc.

At first, the civil servants found their game an amusing one. The initial text was made to mean increasingly different things, verbs jumped sentences as if by their own will, and every time they translated back and forth, the text – or should we now set texts – became alive, like a swarm, like a superorganism, a like a nest of nomadic ants seeking a place to entomb their colony. Several days later, the merriness of the civil servants that was to be heard by passers-by, as they played their language game and laughed at the ever more meaningless results, ceased. No one paid attention at the beginning, assuming that the servants had become bored at long last, and had fled the Archives, for there was no reason for them to be there in the first place, the whole Civil Service having been defunct since the island’s disappearance. When they were found, years later, or eons, or tomorrow in the battle, they met.

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