by Rhys Hughes
“The galumphs are jekking the oofers again.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“The galumphs. Right above you. See the oofers? They are being jekked good and poppersock. It’s totally zondrian.”
“Sorry, I only speak English.”
“This is English, you drood! Pay moogly attention.”
“Well, it’s not any kind of English I’m familiar with. It’s some sort of strange dialect that I don’t recognise.”
“What a humzung farsec! It’s SFinglish, budnag.”
“I still don’t know what—”
“Science Fiction English, for quantum’s sake!”
I looked up but I saw no oofers, unless I did see them but couldn’t tell because I didn’t know what they were. All that was above me was the sky, pale blue and softened with humps of cumulus cloud. Maybe the clouds were the oofers and it was blindingly obvious they were being jekked by galumphs, but I wasn’t at all convinced by this line of reasoning.
My interlocutor seemed to have the ability to peer beyond the serene and perhaps mundane sky that I looked at.
He jabbed his gloved finger aggressively.
“Fresh gak outta Saturn. Rumbly tekks coming in to spork at spaceport. Bet they’re loaded with krakobits.”
I strained my eyes and still saw nothing. He uttered a growl.
“Perk the condenso trail? Tekksigh optimum.”
“Right. Does this have anything to do with the oofers? Or is it a totally separate phenomena?” I asked meekly.
“You galosh! Bid the wangy fortiks, willya frud?”
“Um… sorry, I just don’t—”
“Make an effort, for the love of quarks!”
I chewed my lip and scrutinised the stranger who had so oddly interrupted my daydreaming with his peculiar speech. He was a small man with a bald head and glasses with thick golden frames. His suit was a lilac colour and the shoulders were perfectly square. When he opened his mouth to speak I noted that his teeth were all alike, that every tooth in his head was a front tooth, even the back ones, and that none were pointed, stained or uneven.
“I don’t know the rules of the game,” I confessed.
“Nothing mumper. Just wok the nangy pok that ruffers into your xob. It doesn’t krip what the actual swugs are.”
I was apologetic. “I still don’t comprehend…”
He leaned forward and whispered urgently into my ear, “Nothing easier. Just say the first thing that comes into your head. It doesn’t matter what the actual words are. That’s what I said. Now stop spoiling everything and try to join in. Say anything at all, by tachyon!”
So I cleared my throat and said very self-consciously, “Um… what did you think of the frobby emarg last night?”
He nodded encouragement and answered, “Ribbing biff. Zetunded the migratosh from the kurlo to the bongtog.”
“Ah yes, I concur with your leko vercog on that.”
There was an awkward silence.
I could tell that he was disappointed with me. I realised that the majority of my sentences were supposed to be in gibberish, instead of just a few words here and there. I tried again and this time I invented some actions to go with my words. I struck my left ear with the palm of my right hand, poked out my tongue, bent my knees and rolled my eyes clockwise.
“Pooks like gibble bandars mektek jubbers on the woy.”
“Yah yay! Burten twosh oz!”
He was evidently delighted with my renewed performance. This gave me the confidence to continue. I hoped on one leg in a circle, placed the thumb of my left hand under my chin and flicked it.
“Dort I vidded a nanospekker hisskissing the voidal continuum slick from clustahole nine. Could be rumpal fussgug.”
“Sux yerble heavy to that. Best quex the panode.”
The admiration in his voice was unmistakable. He clapped his hands for joy and this display of enthusiasm pushed me to yet further extremes in my performance. I unbuttoned my shirt, pinched each nipple between finger and thumb and twiddled the pink fleshy protuberances as if they were the controls that adjusted the focus of a space radar screen.
Then I raised my hands to the sky, threw back my head, gaped my mouth as wide as it would go, wobbled my legs and swayed my hips from side to side, made bleeping noises that increased in pitch and suddenly stopped, twiddled my nipples back to their original position and yelled: “Chipchooping long the honkway in my zooter. Saw quackum nodule passing the outerskirts. Bong rish thwack the korners. Vidded the zackal and poinged his droob. Diddums a migly with the chookers. Plonged right forth a gakkel mekajog. Jabs to me ‘Quickle hopnok, did the weskit runder chubsot, fark ondo the skirp.’ How blibba to the musky? Well, rightum gobo. Pekko from the rupe kwantom level attomekkas.”
My companion was overwhelmed. “Oh, zolly gork! Hango it, you got right choob. Ferkect SFinglish jaknot.”
“Mek the tek and subkomp the pekking zootrinos.”
“Well spoke, mustercluster!”
I now began wondering how far to push my newfound language skills. Could a level be reached where I was so fluent and advanced in Science Fiction English that he no longer understood anything I said, even though it was all meaningless anyway? In other words, would he feel compelled to fake incomprehension in the same way he faked understanding? Such fake incomprehension would also be real incomprehension, one of those rare cases where the truth and the lie are the same. It was an interesting speculation.
I decided to run a test by changing the words I was using from simple pseudo-slang to strings of random letters with no grammatical structure at all. “Gngjhb djew wbpugre rjglewp peojldksa.”
But he was undaunted and said, “Hwnlb licbdka wyesjlb.”
I wondered if the next step in the evolution of SFinglish would be to take the alphabet beyond the letter Z, to use symbols incapable of being pronounced, but this concept presented difficulties that were insurmountable. How does one speak the unspeakable with a human tongue?
I attempted to beam an array of these symbols them at him via telepathy as a solution , but he merely frowned, shook his head and indicated the watch strapped to his wrist. I peered closer. 21:30.
That’s what it said and now I realised that he was engaged in playing the same game I sometimes play alone, which is to pretend that the time is the year and to act accordingly. For instance, when the digital clock-face says 12:15 I am an ancient jousting knight, my umbrella held out before me like a lance. When it says 19:17 I am a soldier running out of a trench and dodging bullets. I only act natural when the numbers of the time are the same as those of the present year. A time later than quarter past eight means I must create science fiction scenarios for myself, suitable to those actual numbers.
He was asserting that telepathy was a development for after the year 2130 and that we ought to stick to making sounds.
I was enjoying my time with him but I was already late for an engagement and I wanted to explain this and bid him farewell, so I smiled gently and said quietly, without any accompanying antics: “Jadderglub the dooble zug.”
He instantly turned pale. His voice was hoarse. “Bekko?”
I repeated the phrase. “Jadderglub the dooble zug…”
He grabbed my arm. “Vik mootle the bik? Vak muztid the kib?”
“Jadderglub the dooble zug,” I said.
Now he became really concerned. “You fool! Shut up!”
His sudden lapse into understandable speech disgusted me. “Jadderglub the dooble zug! Jadderglub the dooble zug!”
“I’m warning you. The game is over,” he gasped desperately. “You’ll get us into trouble. What’s wrong with you?”
“Jadderglub the dooble zug.”
Sweat was pouring down his face. He turned on his heel to run away. But the looming form of a policeman prevented his escape. This policeman seemed to be swaddled in aluminium foil. He carried a papier-mâché gun and his cheap plastic visor imprisoned a dirty rainbow.
“Nats kekking riktor, lubbies? Patex you nud?”
“Don’t tell him!” squeaked my friend.
But I was too filled with defiance to remain quiet. “Jadderglub the dooble zug!” I shouted at the top of my voice.
The policeman took a step back and although he raised his hand with the gun clutched in it and aimed it I could tell he was shocked. The barrel wobbled and the rest of his body twitched.
“Vulthy kring! Daspuckle cuckle!” he gasped.
And then he pressed the trigger.
Nothing at all happened.
As if remembering his duty, the policeman cried out, “Bzzt! Bzzt!” and lowered the fake gun to the ground. Then he drew a truncheon from a scabbard at his belt, rushed at me and hit me on the head.
I sagged to my knees while he growled, “Blazzer yud!”
My vision dimmed. I was vaguely aware that my companion had fled and that an appalled crowd was coalescing around me. They were pointing fingers and chanting, “Ververt! Zimy pekk!”
My trial took place two days later. It was held in the SFreme Court and it was a very big occasion. The frunkly judderies were filled to the nuks with datatakers and crallow choofies. The gruder was a tekowig and he jabbered the gukel until the sporkle broke. Then he passed sentence.
It was a meaningless sentence, as befits the SFreme Court.
Now I am jekking the oofers alone.