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One Day Short Story

“You won’t want to head there,” the storekeeper in Yucca, had told me in her dialect. “The trail is challenging and I doubt your metal contraption you call a car can survive it. Plus, there is only one person I heard of that lives there, and he won’t be of much help since he doesn’t talk much. Tree, they call him. And a pretty smart name too, considering he’s one of the people of the pine trees. The Hualapai. And trees don’t talk much, eh, do they? ” She chuckled at her own joke, and I smiled politely.

I felt sympathetic for her lack of knowledge of the current world, seeing that she didn’t even know that my hovercar was probably more than capable of surviving the rockiest of roads. I doubt she even knew what a hovercar was. But at the same time, a pang of envy passed through my heart. How lucky she was to live in ignorant peace, unaware of the world’s problems, even if it meant she was not up-to-date with the latest technology. Despite the storekeeper’s caution, I still wanted to check out the abandoned Boriana mine she spoke about. She seemed reluctant to see me go, and I understood why.

People like her who lived in ghost towns, or deserted towns, tend not to have much company, especially company who spoke their language. When I met her, she was surprised and pleased that I spoke her tongue. I was thankful for the benefits my job as a linguist brought me, which was the access to many languages, some of which I learnt. The storekeeper and I had a lengthy chat, but I had to leave eventually. I hopped into my hovercar set it on ‘auto’ mode as it sped along the road leading to the mine. After approximately five minutes, I already travelled 14 miles of the road.

My heart fluttered in excitement when I saw some mine tailings – the Boriana mine was probably near. I decided to hike the remaining distance and got off my hovercar. Several metres ahead, I spotted a tiny house which looked inhabited. I caught sight of a young man sitting on his porch steps. He must be the Tree guy the storekeeper was talking about! Several of my research projects of the Hualapai language and culture immediately led me to recognise him as someone from a Hualapai village, although it was strange for him to resettle here, far away from civilisation and even further from his hometown.

His head snapped up when he saw me staring at him and tentatively raised a hand as a greeting. I snapped out of my reverie and smiled warmly at him, walking up to him. He must have recognised me as a Westerner and said hi in a hesitant tone, before putting his head down again. I was slightly surprised he spoke English, but was still relieved since I felt more comfortable speaking in English. I introduced myself, saying that I was here to visit the Boriana mine and hinting it would be great if he could lead me around.

He raised his head and looked at me. His eyes were dark brown like a tree bark’s colour, and his skin was the shade of muddy soil. There was no hostility in his look, just a searching. And if I looked closer, a little bit of awe and envy. His expression suddenly changed and said, as plainly as if he had spoken, ‘Yes. ’ He motioned for me to follow him and we walked in silence to the mine nearby. When we reached there, I originally felt apprehensive of following him in further, as the mine looked pretty broken down.

However, he smiled at me reassuringly and walked through what was left of the front door. He then proceeded to a flight of stairs, and it was obvious he knew this place well. Perhaps he visited it often, there’s nothing else you can really do when you live in isolation near this creepy mine. When we finally reached a place that looked like where all the precious metals that were mined were compiled, he picked up a piece of metal that was left lying around and showed it to me. “Tungsten,” I muttered absentmindedly, recognising the grey metal.

He looked at me with kindliness and, for a moment, I saw the Tree, not shy and aloof, but beckoning like a friend. But he turned away and was remote again, removed from contact by his silence which was not the silence of absent speech, but the eloquent silence of trees. I explored the ground floor of the mine with him, and soon we reached the entrance to the actual mine where they dug for the treasures the world no longer used in favour of the man-made and more efficient materials. “Are we moving on? ” I asked Tree.

He looked at me incomprehensively, before slowly moving aside to reveal a warning sign. I understood, and we both walked out of the mine. When we were back at the entrance, he stretched out his arm to bridge himself to a tree that seemed strangely like himself. I sat down on a big rock and thanked him. Since I didn’t introduce myself properly earlier, I told him more about myself and about the people I met on my job as a linguist. I was also hoping this extended introduction would prompt him to tell me a bit more about himself.

However, he just stood there and listened, and I let him, his interest drawing more words out of me as a dry earth would absorb water. Suddenly, when I was halfway through one of the people I had talked to to record their language, it all clicked in. I finally understood why he had kept his silence. Abruptly, I stood up and said, “There’s no need to be ashamed of your language, you know. It includes your culture and who you are. You should embrace it. All that reverence you feel for popular languages and your desire to speak a more common language has blinded you.

Don’t seek to fit in, be proud of who you are, even if it starts with something as simple as the words you speak. It’s ironic, you know, how the world has evolved to pressurise people like you. Decades ago, linguists like me used to work so desperately to try to save languages like yours. Language loss was an actual problem mankind was concerned about. Now, the world’s troubles come from treasures dug up from mines like the one here. ” Except this time, I spoke to him not in English, but in Havasupai – the Hualapai’s native language.

He blinked a few times when he heard my words, a look of surprise passing his face. Before he could fully comprehend what I said, I smiled and sighed, “Well, it’s getting pretty late. Goodbye, it was nice to meet you. ” That was all said in Havasupai, of course. I went away, but before I reached my hovercar I turned and waved back. He was still leaning against the tree, but he straightened quickly and waved in return. “Goodbye,” he replied, and it was like the tree he was leaning against had spoken.

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