Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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Tag: music

08-feb-2017

The brightness of the music: she was almost blinded
while playing the flute, absent-minded.

Rob Mitchelmore (of jamesjoycewaskorean.com) and I wrote a poem. I furnished him with the punchline and he delivered the context, proving once again that even sophisticated-seeming poetry is just dirty jokes all the way down. I’m amazed at the result and very proud of our creation, and I hope you’re proud of us too.

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NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: ON IMMORTALITY

Time: evening. Quality of evening: good. Thing: the North of Reality Translation Project. Today: On Immortality. Translation notes: below. All entries: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: OM ODÖDLIGHET
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Som barn hade du en viss förmåga att upptäcka de extra liv som låg gömda överallt i virtuella världar. Du visste alltid vilka vattenfall du skulle kika bakom, vilka väggar du skulle sträcka handen igenom och tillochmed vilka lerkärl du skulle ta sönder – men av någon anledning fann du aldrig dem som vi lämnade kvar specifikt för dig.

Det första livet låg gömt på toppen av vattentornet bredvid lekplatsen på din lågstadieskola. Vi lät det drypa i klarblåa pixlar så att du lätt kunde se det från den högsta punkten i gungans bana. Vi hade tillochmed tagit reda på att det var din favoritfärg. Tyvärr lade du aldrig märke till livet och det har sedan länge slitits sönder av fiskmåsar.

Det andra livet låg dolt i en grotta bara en bit ifrån vandringsleden du följde när din familj semestrade vid Niagarafallen. Förutom livets safirglöd såg det precis ut som ditt ansikte – vi var stolta över vårt arbete. Någon annan unge hittade dock det en kort tid efter att du åkt hem, och han bar din identitet när han tog sitt språng från vattenfallets krön med ett skratt. Ett slöseri, om du frågar oss.

De blev fler i takt med att du blev äldre; ett inlåst på en flygplanstoalett, ett annat dammtäckt under sängen där du förlorade din oskuld – men din nyfikenhet hade sedan länge sinat. Du slutade lägga märke till detaljerna i din egen värld, ty din uppmärksamhet hade erövrats av en unken skärmglöd.

Ändå har vi ännu inte slutat tro på dig, vi har inte givit upp. Sök igenom din omnejd noggrannt: det finns ett liv någonstans i närheten.

~

Notes

The first question in this translation is, do I put a space in the rendition of “extra lives” or not. I’ve mentioned agglutination before but I don’t think I went into it in any detail. Agglutinative languages mash words together; analytic ones separate them. You can’t always tell when people talk out loud, although there are signs such as binding letters used to smoothen the transition from the end of one building block to the beginning of the other. It’s much easier to tell in written language, at least if you’re using a writing system that has spaces in it. It’s a sliding scale, though with Chinese at one end as super analytic and Finnish at the other as super agglutinative. For example. And Swedish is slightly more agglutinative than English. Schoolkids playing Hangman might write 31 underscores for one long, stupid noun: flaggstångsknoppspoleringsmedel (means for polishing the knob of a flagpole). They often write longer ones as well – at my school we use dto write flaggstångsknoppspoleringsmedelsbehållare (container for “–”) but that seems to be local flavour, after a glance at the internet. Other variants include …flaska, …försäljare, …flaskkork, …prenumeration, …flaskkorksetikett … sorry, I got carried away.

The point is, there are more spaces in English writing than in Swedish writing. There is a whole lot of nuance to my ear between extraliv and extra liv. A life is a categorically different thing from an extralife. In English, the phrase “extra life” can easily carry both of the meanings, and so does. But in Swedish I have to choose, and I choose the one with a space in it, because it evokes the much more common spaceless version.

Also, for those of you keeping score at home, it took me half an hour to write out this thinking process but it took me two seconds to decide on it. Also, the sliding scale is a bit more complicated than I made it out to be but that was the level of understanding I was working at when I made my decision. A cool thing you can do when you have studied something for a time is to decide what granularity your models will have in order to serve your purposes for the moment. But do read the wikipedia article on synthetic languages or isolating languages, etc, if you want to know more.

“Lover” is not gender-neutral in Swedish. Though “älskare” is used gender-neutrally by some, it’s registered as exclusively male by a lot of Swedes. Putting a gender to the lover would ruin some of the point of the direct-address second-person pronoun, in that while most people have a first lover, fewer people have a first lover of one specifc gender, and also if your first male lover was after your first female lover that sentence sounds really weird. The points that I want to carry over in the translation are thus: 1. the gender-neutrality, because I like it. 2. the vague notion of growing up somehow, the rite of passage. 3. the conflation of the different senses of exploration – as in first love and as in charting uncharted territory – to contrast with the waning curiosity.

Every single alternative translation I could think of was wrong. I’m skipping directly, here, to the solution of simply saying: the bed where you lost your virginity. I admit this is not an ideal solution (although if you see no problem with it feel free to not think harder about it), but I have been stuck on this problem a long time. I’m typing this paragraph ten minutes before the day is officially over, actually, and I really would not like to be late two weeks in a row with this project. If I go back to this problem, I might switch it back to saying the gendered “lover,” or I might use the really old phrase for “make love” that sounds like it’s from a few turns of the centuries ago, or I might paint a teenage scenario of sneaking into bedrooms over verandra rooves, or inspiration might strike and something else entirely.

A friend looked through my translation and reminded me that it’s really easy to get tunnel-vision on these things, so I’ll probably go back through the old translations and fix a few mistakes over the next week or so. There are bound to be a few of similar kind that she pointed out, such as unclear reference and an unnatural over-reliance of the genitive. But learning is cool! And so is humility, kids. Another thing she pointed out was that in Swedish, a seagull cannot peck. It’s idiomatic in English, but in Swedish it becomes the wrong motion, for some reason. Instead, the seagulls “tear” – sliter – the heart apart.

~

Gosh. Next week: Roosevelt National Labyrinth.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: FOUND FOOTAGE

Good deep dark night, friends. Today’s piece is Found Footage. Translation notes, in English, are found below the story. All entries in the project so far are found here: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: UPPHITTAD FILM
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Du har kommit till den här skogen för att leta efter varelsen som kallas ”sasquatch.” Vid det här laget har du fått reda på att han är mänsklig; åtminstone om man inte är så strikt med sin definition av ordet ”mänsklig.” Hans kött har förvridit sig från åratal av lång exponering och hans hud har suddats ut till skenpareidolisk ull. Ett groteskt tumavtryck kvarstår där det en gång må ha funnits ett ansikte, utan att kunna se eller prata.

De flesta resenärer anländer till Kanal Noll Nationalpark av misstag men du har tagit dig hit med flit. Denna plats har fötts fram ur videofeedback; träden här dryper med resterna av nattkikares limegröna glöd. Du trycker din hand mot den självlysande barken på en urgammal björk och den glider rakt igenom. Du drar tillbaks handen och dina fingrar är genomdränkta med brusande TV-sav, alldeles bortdomnade.

Stundom hörs omgivningens vita brus högre än vinden genom löven.

Somliga säger att människan har frammanat denna plats, en knut i rymdväven som fötts fram ur avståndet mellan lins och spegel. Andra säger att det är ett urtidsrike, lika gammalt som spegelbilderna av träd i Minnesotas sjöar, och att mänsklig inblandning bara har tjänat till att skynda på en urgammal process.

Du har följt hans spår mil efter mil, bara för att anlända till en gravhög. Det finns dock ingen höjd jord här; bara en massa kameror och mjukt flimrande ben. ”HÄR VILAR SASQUATCH,” står det på en minnestavla av järn vid högens fot. ”DÖMD TILL MYT, DRÄPT AV FÖRNUFT.”

Trots det markerar denna milstolpe slutet på din egen resa, för hans spegelbild har följt dig hela vägen hit. Ditt sista minne är hur du bländas av din egen blixt; kanske kommer någon, någon dag, att framkalla bilderna.

~

Notes

I did not know of the equivalent term for “found footage” when I started this translation, but fortunately the particular genre of horror film that shares this name is a well-blooming genre, and even though Swedes would mostly just say “found footage” when talking about the genre, the translation is unconfusing and understandable. There’s an interesting gradient of loan words being assimilated into the language, from words pronounced with a mouth still in foreign mode to words pronounced like they have always been part of the language.

What I mean by this is, well, take your American English language vowel chart. Uel’s accent looks something like this, by my reckoning:

a hand-drawn vowel chart.

That’s the place of all the vowels in the mouth. The consonants also have their places, but it would look too crowded if I included them too. And trust me, this is definitely how sounds work. Actually, don’t take my word for it, but take it up with tongueistics if you’ve got a problem.

Anyway, see how the vowels all keep some respectable distance between each other? In different languages, the sounds are in different places (and there’re different amounts of vowels! A language with a small number of vowels will have much wider berths than a jam-packed one). Switching to another tongue is very literally like switching to another tongue, one with other settings. So for a loan word like “found footage” we would switch very quickly to English for the duration of that word, then back to Swedish. For a word like “tight,” which is /taɪt/ in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) we would not switch, but say /taɪt/ but with the Swedish placement of those symbols instead. And then there are phrases that are undergoing this assimilation but aren’t there yet, such as “slow-motion,” which is a bit all over the map when I say it in Swedish at least. You can figure out pretty well how long ago a loan word was loaned in by judging how far along this process the word is.

I figured that Sasquatch, having had an episode or two in the X-Files, is well-known enough in Sweden that I need not intervene as a middle-man narrator and explain anything about him. The name, in Swedish, is obviously foreign because of the letter combinations, but I think it’s pronounced with a tongue halfway between English and Swedish. Like we don’t know what to do with the sounds. It’s not an exact science, this. It doesn’t help that it’s a name from another language than English, either.

That became a large tangent. That’s okay. Next let’s look at something else in the first paragraph: the word pareidoliac. Uel has made a smooth neologism, making pareidolia (the tendency of humans to find patterns in random noise) sound like an affliction akin to insomnia (cf. insomniac). This structure is sadly not mirrored in Swedish, so I had to work around it to get a somewhat similar effect. My idea here came from the prefix sken-, which literally seems to mean “shine” and is used to mean something like “false” or “mock,” as in skendränkning (“mock drowning”) or skenfrukt (“false fruit”). I tend to think of it as fae glamour or something, although I’ll admit to not knowing the deeper etymology here.

This story is all about things becoming what they seem, and surface levels affecting the deeper levels, so I made up the word skenpareidolisk, to vaguely suggest that maybe the pareidolia is false. In what way it is false is for the reader to fill in although I made sure to figure out at least two ways, in case someone corners me and demands an explanation for the freedoms I’ve taken in the translation. Which is all to say that when it comes to translating a style you have to keep the language breathing, in my earnest opinion.

Chartreuse is not a word, not a colour, in most people’s Swedish. So I picked lime instead. That colour is right in the same part of the spectrum, just shifted a little bit. It’s difficult to get the auras of colours right because colours are one of the most direct forms of symbolism (in art as well as in nature: you instinctively don’t want to eat something wild coloured black and red and yellow! Wow we’re all about the tangents here). Translators between languages less intermingled than Swedish-English have to deal with various issues like blue and green being the same colour, or light blue being as different from dark blue as pink is from red. But fortunately Swedes and Americans have the same images of such binoctulars as Uel describes, so I’m resting my translation on that shared bit of culture and hope that the description simply makes the reader recall the right chartreuse hue.

Turns out that we have “landmark” in Swedish (“landmärke”) but that it is a nautical term, and while we’ve also got it as a calque for the non-nautical use, the more commonly used word for this type of memorable abberration in the landscape is milstolpe (“milestone”), from an extension of the word’s literal meaning.

~

I didn’t actually sit down to chart Uel’s accent with linguoscopy, but wouldn’t that have been super cool and a bit creepy? The image is just roughly what a southern Californian accent is like, according to a chart I saw on Wikipedia.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: DARK TAXIDERMY

Good afternoon. You know the drill by now probably! Today’s piece is Dark Taxidermy. Translation notes, in English, are found below the story, so even if you don’t know Swedish you can enjoy the thing. You can find all entries in this project neatly organised at the following link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: SVARTTAXIDERMI
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

För en del kanadensiska jägare var det inte tillräckligt att göra troféer av sina villebråds kroppar. Ett visst jaktsällskap i Newfoundland utvecklade en teknik för att stoppa djurskinn med träskelett och glasorgan för att låta dem återgå till det vilda. Det främsta återuppväckningsmedlet var artificiellt blod med en formel som innehöll, bland annat, björnbärssirap och svartkrut och krossade eldflugor.

Dessa mekaniska varelser återvände till skogen som parior. De erkändes inte av sina egna arter. Det är oklart huruvida de identifierade med sin egen päls eller om de helt enkelt såg den som någon slags klädnad. Om de verkligen var samma djur eller inte efter prepareringen var en fråga ingen kunde ge definitivt svar på, men beteendeskillnaden var tydlig för vilken betraktare som helst. Deras ben böjdes på underliga håll och deras huvud verkade endast blicka åt ett håll.

För jägarna som beställde dem blev sådana troféer inte stilla påminnelser av deras triumf över naturen utan gav dem alla en chans att återuppleva den gång på gång. De återvände till skogen när än nostalgi grep tag i dem och spårade upp dessa varelser de lämnat kvar som släpade sig fram i fuguetillstånd, för att skjuta ihjäl dem en gång till. Deras omtåliga inälvor splittrades lätt, vilket framkallade en tillfredsställande explosion av lila vätska då kulan kolliderade med kroppen. Det var aldrig helt och hållet samma sak som den första gången, men det var mycket mer spännande än blotta minnet.

De som hade råd till det fick sina favorittroféer återuppbyggda igen och igen. Till slut var skinn och päls alldeles värdelösa, ty det var antalet glashjärtan en man hade splittrat som tydligast vittnade om hans rikedom.

~

Notes

Svart = black. The svart- in the title is the same black as in “the black market,” or the same dark as in “the dark arts” (svartkonster). Also, svarttaxi already means “irregulated taxicab (service),” so we’ve got echoes of that.

I also got to use the word villebråd, which technically means game rather than prey, but a) I really like that word and b) the predator/prey structure (one might even call it a discourse) doesn’t translate as well onto humans in Swedish as it does in English. It works, for sure, but it’s not as widely adapted. Or it’s adapted in other ways, at least.

“Sporting lodge” had to become “jaktsällskap” (hunting society) because I found no smooth way to communicate the concept of a sporting lodge. However, I would call them synonymous (i.e. not equivalent but close, corresponding). A much smaller thing that I changed was the list with the Oxford comma at the end of the first paragraph. The Oxford comma is incorrect in Swedish, and I thought the comma placement looked too messy without it so I made the list a succession of “and”s instead.

And here the word automaton stumped me again. Robot seems the wrong word to describe reanimated flesh, does it not? I’ve not translated this word the same way twice so far, and that has not been intentional but it seems to be becoming a trend. Zombie seemed the wrong choice partly because of the pop-mythology around it and partly because Swedish learnt the word from English, and rather recently, so I’d rather not use it anywhere other than where it says zombie in the original. I went with saying they were in “fuguetillstånd,” fugue state, because ambulatory automatism is a psychological term and this was fitting. Also, with the musical overtones to that word I would like to be seen suggesting, ever so slightly, that their state has indeed been orchestrated.

In the last paragraph we’ve got a curious case of what might be called the “middle voice.” Or, it’s a standard case of the middle voice, but it’s curious because it’s the middle voice at all. That is, it’s the thing between passive voice and active voice, not officially part of English. The only language I know off the top of my head where it shows up is Greek, but phrases like “got his hair cut” or “had her toenails removed” are usually used to illustrate the concept. In Swedish, the verb for get, , is usually used in such constructions.

Before the Light Turns Red

Reposting this old drabble from 2012 because I deleted the old blog it was on in a fit of entropy. Might post more of these if there’s anything salvage-worthy. Anyway. This piece is based on a gorgeous song by Unwoman, called The Heroine: unwoman.bandcamp.com/track/the-heroine

I urge you to go listen to that. And when you’ve read my piece, to read this excellent post by @earlgreyhot, also inspired by that song: earlgreyhot.com/blog/the-heroines-demons/

~

Cross the street before the light turns red, arrive out of breath at your theatre. You’re playing someone who’s losing her love tonight again. Five hundred sirens blare to dampen the sound of the bombs. The play is in the basement, no-one’s here to take my ticket. Everything goes crimson and I hide in the dark behind a pillar. Fifty thousand pairs of hands grab me when I catch a bombflash in a shard of glass. I get thrown out. Remember me as more than the shadow I will glue to the wall. I hope you believed I would show.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: THE LIVING HARP

Good evening, good evening, good evening. Welcome into my humble abode. Pretend you’re stepping into a cramped living room as you are reading these words. But what’s this? The furniture is alive. Don’t worry. It’s just conscious, it can’t move.

Sorry about that. We have a nice and juicy translation for you with today’s piece, The Living Harp. As always, you should have read the original before reading the notes (found at the bottom) although hopefully you don’t need to have read the original to understand the translation, or I’ve failed horribly.

All the previous and future entries in this project, unless I forget to tag things, can be found at: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: DEN LEVANDE HARPAN
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Den röda stadens filharmoniska orkester upplöstes för flera sekel sedan. Deras instrument blev otåligt ostämda med åren och suktar nu efter mänsklig beröring. Ljusen står fortfarande på i det gamla operahuset där de väntar på sina musiker, men dött brus mättar luften till den grad att det är nästan beckmörkt. Städrobotar har lärt sig att inte gå in och damm höljer de flesta av ytorna därinne.

Det som en gång var konsertharpan bor nu i ett av balkongbåsen högt ovanför scenen. Dess ram har vridit sig i hunger till en dubbelhelix och strängarna har lösgjort sig själva från klangbottnen. De dinglar nu som någon slags hemsk peruk. En ensam broms inkräktar på harpans territorie och en av strängarna hugger till och virar sig runt dess vingar.

Den klämmer bort insektens surrande och kommer ihåg, för ett ögonblick, smaken av musik. Sedan kommer tystnaden tillbaka.

~

Notes

In the past, when I’m writing this, I’ve been reading translation theory for my university courses. Since there’s nothing really tricky going on in this translation – Uel mentioned on twitter that he missed the opportunity for a “buzzfeed” pun in this one, and that omission has made this translation considerably easier, I must say – I thought I’d muddy the waters by classifying different kinds of translation here in accordance with Vinay & Dalbernet’s model of different translation methods. This is partly to help me understand what they’re saying also.

So, real quick, Vinay & Dalbernet list seven kinds of translation, three of which are direct/literal and thus not interesting. The way to remember those three though – loan word (or phrase), calque, and literal translation – is to remember that “loan word” is a calque, while “calque” is a loan word. (A calque is a phrase that may sound awkward at first in translation, but eventually it blends into its surrounding, assimilates. Like, the word order may be foreign but the words are not. A loan word is when you don’t bother translating a word. They use emprunt, “borrowing,” but that joke up there only works with the phrase loan word, so I modulated it.) And a literal translation is just that. There are more literal translations in a text the closer the two languages are to each other, of course.

So, the oblique ones, the fun ones are, in ascending order of complexity: transposition, modulation, equivalence, and adaptation. I will attempt to explain them with examples.

Near the end we’ve got “smaken av musik,” “the taste of music,” a transposition of “what music tasted like.” That is, the word class has changed without really changing the meaning. (I used a noun for taste instead of the verb because, after first having written “hur musik smakar,” which is “what music tasted like” but in the present tense, I didn’t want to figure out how infidelic I was by changing the tense.)

The phrase “grown … starved of human touch” has become “suktar nu efter mänsklig beröring,” which is a lot of modulation at once. Starved becomes suktar, longing. The thing modulated is the interpretation of the event, ever so slightly. It’s the same thing that is happening, undeniably, but the metaphor has changed.

A direct translation there would use the word svälta, but that that metaphor is not really available in the Swedish metaphor palette, so the starvation becomes instead a sort of desperate longing. This is why that translation is also an example of equivalence: different meanings in different languages that have the same meaning one abstraction up. Idioms are the standard example.

(The time implied passed in having “grown starved” was transposed onto the adverb nu, now, by the way.)

The most interesting morcels of translation are the adaptation ones, of course. There are no such examples in this one, but if you read the commentary about straw and effigies on Marionettfilament, you will get a good example. An adaptation is a looser translation, where the thing mentioned does not exist in the target language. A gap has to be filled. For this, usually one uses loan words, but if you’re translating that’s kind of cheating and bullshit, so transforming the original, adapting it to the target culture, is the way forward. Anything more abstractivized than this, says Vinay & Dalbernet, is not translation but something else. Actually, the most interesting morcels are the ones concerning so-called heroic translation but at writing time (the present. It somehow turned into the present when you weren’t looking) I have not finished my write-up of that so maybe you will get that next week. Maybe not. Tune in to find out.

Scream the Throats

We sound the drums, rattam; we stretch the skin taut and beat them until they burst and the music stops. We fall the rain, we gather the clouds, we heavy the air until one struggles for oxygen and the music stops. We play the strings, we boom the thunder. We grin, rattam; we sharpen the claws, we scratch against all the glass surfaces we find. We throw the stones, we pound the blood in ears and wrists and jugulars. We close the eyes, we make you scream until the music stops, we beat the drums, rattam, we beat the drums.

~

Old, very old, impossibly old thing I wrote for my dear friend Pao (@Panterdjuret) and wanted to have available on this here website as well. Edited a tiny, very tiny, impossibly tiny bit because things change over the years. Two words are different.

Broadcast from the Tundra 14 (Ghazal)

My fictional band, Chamfered Sparrows, have released an unfictional song. Enjoy.

Lyrics:

The brokenness is latent in the heart-ness of the heart
Take care to not get swallowed by the darkness of the art

of love I don’t know anything, but once I killed a man
The flames that ate him grew from just a sparklet of a spark

You waste in Plato’s cave, the poison dripping in your eyes
and as the shadows dance your heart all harkens to the dark

Signed, Undersigned, just pick a name, just fill in all the forms
And I will have my contours, all their sharpness cut apart

~

I also made a bandcamp account, if that is your kind of thing. http://chamferedsparrows.bandcamp.com/track/broadcast-from-the-tundra-14-ghazal

Composure, or This Wicked World

Whenever he feels so upset that he cannot handle things, he takes time out to play a gorgeous tune on his harp, and then he is – composed. The harp always stays in his bedroom. Sometime later when he has the time, in the middle of the night, he will get up and the floor will creak as he sits down by the harp and plays that same song, and he cries uncontrollably.

He has been going through his collection of sheet music like they were napkins to dry tears with lately and he is running out of songs to play.

The Slaughter of the Lalk

This was their last lalk. They shouldn’t have, but they had been eating them, their deep insides at least. Their poisonous skin had been given to the more resilient animals at first; however the poison had still kept potent inside the pigs, which was why their children had ribs that poked out further than the ribs of the children of the other families in the village. In the end, they had to burn the parts of the carcasses that couldn’t be eaten, and stay away from the smoke.

Elder Mari comforted the lalk. She had let her grey hair fall all the way past her waist and undone her braids so it seemed just like a shimmering sheet. She sat on the big stool in the pen where you would sit to handfeed the lalk, but it knew something was wrong. It shied away from her touch – her black-gloved hands were not welcome, though the beast was too hungry to say no to food. It stood directly opposite Mari, as far away as it could, and it stretched its long, scrawny neck toward the bowl Mari carried. It was apples, its favourite food. It never got apples. Apples had to be traded from the neighbouring farm, and that was a rare occurance. That family got along poorly with this one, as every human in the village knew.

The lalk knew nothing about the families, or about where apples came from. It became afraid still. The other lalk had received a similar treatment; they had caved quicker than this one. And this one needed to trust Mari completely, not just enough to go into the barn where it could be held down. It grabbed just one apple and jerked back to the farthest corner of the pen and it swallowed the apple whole. Mari Battye saw the bulge make its slow way down the lalk’s throat until it disappeared. The lalk coughed, pigeoned with its head a few times and then stood still. There were still apples in the bowl. It was still hungry.

The elder sat there patiently for hours, and when the sun was about to rise the frightened animal let her pet it. One of its eyes – the left one – was closed now, the right brain in half-sleep like its ancestors used to do to keep swimming. The lalk tried to keep swimming. But it rested its head, just for a little while, in the warm lap of the elder human. There were no more apples. Its right eye kept staring up at the sky.

She grabbed its ear and held its face up to stare at it. There was nothing but compassion and tragedy in her eyes. A few strokes against the grain on the hair under its chin and then she climbed down from the stool, stumbled and dropped the empty bowl, and walked toward the barn. She let the handwoven bowl stay in the mud as she unlocked the door to the barn and walked in. It smelt of hay and wet hair.

In the middle of the barn there was an altar, of sorts. It looked like a set of winner’s pedestals for a competition. When the lalk curiously poked its head into the barn, the Battye woman had kneeled and placed her head with one ear flat on the lower of the two pedestals. The lalk whistled, a high-pitched rattling sound. Mari whistled back.

It took a few awkward steps into the dark room and blinked to adjust to the light levels. It whistled – Mari Battye whistled back like a lalk would. A year ago, the farm had been galore with the squeals of pigs and shrieking whistles of lalk, and complex conversations had been carried out in those frequencies. Sometimes the lalk wondered whether the humans knew they could hear what the pigs were saying, but it did not wonder like a human would. It was not a possibility in its mind, rather, its left brain believed one thing and its right brain another. It thought both things, but not always. It tried to squeal, and Battye made a human noise.

The noise continued. It was harmonic, and not harmonic. If the lalk did not trust her, if it did not imitate her and lie down with its head like her on the pedestal intended for it, there would be a problem. If it did not do this by the end of the song, the whole thing would be a fluke and the games would not begin and the village would most likely starve. Her voice cracked and she kept singing, and the lalk half-fell, half-knelt and twisted to place its head on the pedestal like its friend had.

It tried to sing, too.

The slaughter was swift, as the blade had been sharpened that morning.