by Louis Febres
It started out small. Borrowing from brothers, sisters, cousins, and neighbors, until it grew strong enough to stand on its own. We took it from our tiny village as we braved nearby lands, and from the lips of a few it blazed like wildfire. Across cities it went, propagating knowledge, wisdom, and tales of our people. Through it our ancient gods sprang to life, our world was given form, and our heroes gloried in triumphs across terrestrial and celestial battlegrounds. Spoken, written, and sung, it birthed our every thought.
One morning, the strangers came. If not for their outlandish clothing and ornamentation, they would have appeared to be our brethren from the Eastern border. When we spoke our words of welcome, they were received with bewilderment and returned with jumbled sounds we could not comprehend. And when we presented to them our words of proclamation and law, they met our eyes with scornful gazes and spat upon our parchment and clay.
Soon after, blood was spilled. The fighting lasted many weeks. Their enormous ships piled upon our shores in great flocks, on their backs the never-ending rows of warriors, delivering destruction and death with their strange and barbaric implements. When our cities choked on rot and ruin, and our babes suckled the shriveled breasts of dying mothers, we could no longer resist; we bent our knees, and our land was theirs.
In time, it became small again, like in the early days. It was spoken only by a few elders, but by then the temples were rubble, our halls of learning cinder, and the sacred scriptures and wise words turned ash. And when the elders perished, so too did our language disappear, like a whisper in the sea.
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Louis Febres worked by day and studied by night but since the pandemic, it’s been a big blur of work and study from home and he no longer knows when the days begin and end. He knows he was born in Brooklyn and has lived in Queens most of his life. He was once a musician bursting with creativity, and then the 9-to-5, family life, health issues and an assortment of events derailed him. He likes to think he is back on track, finding a new creative outlet in writing, and soldiering on like everyone else.
Image credit: “Languages,” ArTeTeTrA. Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.