The Bat Girl

The day before Victory Day we received a short, yet welcomed report, from our field agent on our northwestern borders, that distant place of fertile pastures, tranquil lakes and mythical beasts called Serprerps. Having spent the best part of the winter underground, living off his short supplies and sleeping off the freezing cold, our agent was able to make contact with the local tribes. At first the simple-minded inhabitants of Serprerps took fright from the wild appearance of our agent, a bear-like brute so typical of the rank-and-file of the Field Commission of which he is a lowly functionary. Thankfully, he was able to make friends after several tribulations, and went on to organize a display of fireworks that, apparently, was a real winner with the children.

Quid pro quo, the tribesmen led him to their sacred caves, the first time any from our race was granted permission to that mysterious place.  Clerks should take note: our agent’s mission has been accomplished and, upon his return to the capital – whenever that may be – he must be presented with a class G minus governmental citation.

According to the report, the caves form a sponge-like complex, not unlike human brain tissue, buried underneath the muddy bottom of the lakes. To get there, one must take a boat and sail to a secret spot where the lake water is siphoned three hundred meters into the ground. It is a perilous journey for if you do not know your way out you will end up been sucked into the siphon forever. But the local tribes know their way well in and out of the maze of galleries and caves. Our agent landed on soft ground, at the bottom of the vortex and, following his guides, descended to the caves. His report is short on detail, but we understand that he has no intention of returning. Scribbling quickly on the last page that much was there to be further explored, he passed the report to the tribal chief and it is through the good services of this uncultured but loyal subject that we today, ten years later, are able to read it.

What is particularly curious in the report is what is displayed on the opposite side of the last page: a picture of a person. Our forensic analysts have decreed that the picture was taken accidentally, the result of a rare combination of electrochemical happenstance. Something to do with the scarce light, the composition of the air in the caves and the mould of the paper after been stored under ice for months. Anyway, the picture shows a young woman with the wings of a bat. She hangs upside down from the ceiling of a cave. Her eyes are bright red. Who was that girl and what role she played in the decision of our agent to stay in the caves remains a mystery.

A young researcher who happened to delve into a relevant entry of the Grand Book of Knowledge has suggested that the girl is not real and that the picture is in fact a projection of our agent’s thoughts. To substantiate her hypothesis she has correlated a local tribal myth that describes a time when every man and woman lived in those caves and all reality was made of pure thought and nothing else. We are also told that this researcher has applied for the post of field agent and asked to seek the caves and our lost agent too; but Central Directorate has decreed that the bat girl story was too weak a reason to fund a long and perilous expedition, not with the way our Empire’s finances are going. We agree and file this complementary report to the Archives for future reference.

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The Mission Diaries I

The task that befell the High Office was to assemble a mission to conduct a methodical search for the lost island. It was a decision that many in the High Office dreaded. So when the paper with the order arrived – by official post so that the regular excuses for endless delay would not hold the slightest water – dread gave way to exasperation. A committee was put together hastily, leaves were cancelled, lights were switched on for working deep into the hours of night, and they threw themselves into the Archives in search of potential members for such a mission. They studied the tales of Jason and the Argonauts, the Odyssey, the Aineiad; and took notes of a thorough list of skills that a team ought to combine; unmatched mastery in the martial arts, superhuman navigational instinct, indomitable courage, unparalleled engineering genius, and most importantly, formidable psychic powers that could bend space-time at will. The Committee went through the phone book and called a few numbers. In the following days a long line of applicants appeared outside the High Office’s office building, a twisting snake of eagerly-awaiting hopefuls. Centuries later, when word of the island’s whereabouts and the fate of the mission finally reached our world, it became clear that the selection process was erratic, not to put it in any finer words. It was said that among the crew a certain fellow, a borrowed soul from a novel not yet written, a conjurer of dreams, was destined to lead the mission through the most treacherous of waters, and that it was thanks to him that the mission did not lose its way completely, that it managed to circumnavigate the Sea of Emotions and the Spheres of Galactic Apprehension and then ride on the spiral Nebulas of Ignorance, and then…Oh, but their story never ends. And in so far as that dreamer fellow is concerned, the Archives speak mostly of his infamous talent; to enter minds like a worm enters a fruit, to burrow all the way to their nucleus, to see things that no mind could ever see by itself. His name was Cyrus.

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.