Thirty Thousand

by Marco Smith ©2017

“Mamma mia!”

Franco, on the fifth floor of the linguistics building, was talking to himself. The abstract concept most people referred to as ‘time’ had once again ticked around to 3am and Doctor Lingo, as his colleagues had christened him, was always alone when he worked so late. He was obsessed with his work. He lived and breathed it. Even when not technically at work his mind would be working on the problems renting space in his cerebrum. He was the foremost professor of linguistic science in the world and just a moment ago he had a moment of pure clarity. For years Franco, along with the rest of the human race, had dreamt of understanding what it was that the other beings sharing our planet talked about. More specifically, dolphins. It had long been common knowledge that dolphins talked to each other using a series of clicks. The problem was that nobody had succeeded in translating their language…until 2:58 this very morning.

Effervescent with excitement, Franco had to tell someone! He grabbed his phone to call his partner who had rather sensibly left the office over eight hours ago. Steven would almost certainly be asleep at this ungodly hour but Franco dialled the number regardless. The heralding of this quantum leap forward was surely a sufficient excuse to prod the sleeping bear.

“Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Hi, you’re through to the voicemail of Professor Steven Bur…”

Doctor Lingo hung up. Evidently the bear was sleeping too soundly. Undeterred, Franco flipped open his laptop and began in earnest to pen an email to Steven. An email that would surely be marked in the annals of history.

To: Prof. S. Burton
From: Me
Subject: Don’t choke on your breakfast!

Hi Steve,

I have had the most eventful night since that night we don’t speak of. I don’t want to be too presumptuous but I think I’ve done it. I need you to look over my results, get here as soon as you can my friend.

I was reading an old book about language and the term ‘Pasigraphy’ popped off the page. It’s the principal of a universal language using symbolism to confer meaning instead of words. I had a eureka moment. It suddenly occurred to me that dolphins were not using words at all. I started thinking along the lines that maybe, just maybe, they use a dolphin sonar WiFi system to send each other symbolic gestures directly into the visual cortex. After all they use sonar to build a picture of their surroundings by reading their own echo, so it’s not beyond possible for them to send a definitive ‘echo’ to the whole pod or directly focus it to another individual.

I fed the data from recorded transmissions into an image processor instead of into the language processor we have been using. The output was just garbage at first, but with a few adjustments to the syntax, the software started to make real progress. A relatively short time later and there it was, the first sonogram translated from a dolphin call filled the screen in exquisite detail. It was impeccably precise in every dimension with a superb fidelity of resolution. My conclusion therefore is that dolphins indeed have an extensive vocabulary. Analysis of the sonogram library was done by the computer which has extrapolated fifteen symbols for verbs. The rest of the language it has approximated to be a very large number, perhaps as high as thirty thousand symbols, all of which the computer has individually classified but assigned to one single group definition. It reads as follows:


–noun, plural (especially collectively)

  1. any of various cold-blooded, aquatic vertebrates, having gills,
    commonly fins, and typically an elongated body covered with scales.

Franco Lingo
Professor of Linguistic Science


The Heptapetalous

The Heptapetalous

by Marco Smith ©2017


Fairy Bottoms was a strange place indeed. In every nook you looked could be found oddities of all descriptions. In our world these would seem totally out of place, one might even consider them impossible. In the realm of the fairies however, odd was the norm. In a particular corner there lived the one exception to this rule. There is always one exception, and this one had a name. Her name was Amelia, but to most of the inhabitants of Fairy Bottoms she was known simply as The Heptapetalous. Continue reading “The Heptapetalous”


by Marco Smith ©2017

Day One

Risk! That was the key. It produced the crucial ingredient. The drug he sought, desired, craved. The hunger ran through his body, an itch that could only be silenced by drowning under a tidal wave of adrenaline. That high made him feel invincible, like he could achieve anything. Today that ‘anything’ was to conquer the impossible Rockfort Ridge.

The rocky face had stood for millennia, carved out of mountainous terrain by the unrelenting progression of the weather. It wasn’t a particularly high climb but it was one nobody had completed. The combination of sheer, smooth granite and the lack of fissures made the climb practically impossible.

Reece Cooper hadn’t dared to try in the 32 years leading up to today. Rockfort Ridge was so named because of its uncanny resemblance to a Fort, as though it had been hewn from the rock centuries ago to guard the heart of the mountain, or so the legend told. That was why Coop had to climb it. Since the first day he heard about it, the day he was drawn in by the incredible story, the day he saw the photographs proving it was a real place, the seed had been planted. Fructification had begun in earnest during his teenage years, every free moment consumed by his unrelenting drive. The adrenaline junkie Reece Cooper was unleashed.

The first part of the climb had been the most difficult, as it had seemed from the ground, which was exactly what scared people off. However, the Coop determination had found a way. He was now almost at the top, the familiar fuel coursing through his veins, pushing him onwards. The thought crossed his mind of what he would find at the top. He hadn’t considered this at all previously. The legend … what if that beast … lives on?

Onwards and upwards, racing skywards. To say Coop was fearless would be to deny the very thing that fuelled him. Approaching the pinnacle, a new fear started to grip his insides. This was different to the normal motivation he utilised each and every day. Adrenaline was born through fear and his motto had always been the old mantra ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. He attempted to feel this new fear. It was spiked, divergent. It chilled him to the bone. He attempted to force it down and pushed on with his quest. The top! He’d only made it to the top! He never had any doubt, he was invincible! He pulled himself over the lip and stepped from the bright Nevada day into utter darkness.

Coop shuddered — what, where, when was he? He felt Rockfort beneath his feet but it wasn’t there, not visually at least. It was like he had stepped through to another world. The unnatural darkness was total, encasing him, dark as pitch. It wasn’t like switching off a light where you still saw a residual glow. No, this was as though the very concept of light had been erased from existence.

His new fear bubbled to the surface, flashes of the terrible legend lit up his mind but provided no external light. He cursed his ambition, wished he hadn’t started this fateful journey. From the dark came unholy sounds. He was not alone in this void. Waves of panic washed over him, flooding him, drowning him.

Coop cried out for help that could not, would not come. He knew in his soul that rescue was impossible. Flight took control. His intestines liquidised and ran down his leg. He bolted. He ran like a headless chicken, not knowing where. His outstretched arms flailed to grasp onto anything familiar.

Suddenly, he was blinded by searing Nevada sunlight. Now his legs flailed, trying to run on nonexistent ground. Twenty seconds of freefall before he found his feet — just enough time for his eyes to adjust to his fate.

The adrenaline junkie Reese Cooper was released.