PodCastle 353: Irregular Verbs

by Matthew Johnson
Read by Chistopher Reynaga
Featuring Special Guest Host Peter Wood!
Originally published in Fantasy Magazine.

apilar: to let a fire burn out

gelas: to treat something with care

pikanau: to cut oneself with a fishhook

It is a well-known fact that there are no people more gifted at language than those of the Salutean Isles. Saluteans live in small villages on a thousand densely populated islands; isolated but never alone, their languages change constantly, and new ones are born all the time. A Salutean’s family has a language unintelligible to their neighbours, his old friends a jargon impenetrable to anyone outside their circle. Two Saluteans sharing shelter from the rain will, by the time it lets up, have developed a new dialect with its own vocabulary and grammar, with tenses such as “when the ground is dry enough to walk on” and before I was entirely wet.”

It was in just such circumstances that Sendiri Ang had met his wife, Kesepi, and in such circumstances that he lost her. An afternoon spent in a palm-tree shadow is enough time for two people to fall in love, a few moments enough to die when at sea. Eighteen monsoons had passed in between, enough time for the two of them to develop a language of such depth and complexity that no third person could ever learn it, so utterly their own that it was itself an island, without ties to any of its neighbours.

Rated PG.

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