Me and Daneu found a food vendor selling soup dumplings the size of dinner plates from a rickety metal cart. They were served to us in little reed baskets with big, boba straws to drink the broth out of them before could rip them open and eat the filling from the warm, chewy crust.
We walked along by the disused tracks and saguaro trees while we ate.
“We have to change lines here,” I said. “The freighters change companies here. This is really the jumping off point. you don’t need passports out there,” I gestured with my arm towards what I thought was the unknown territories. “Or IDs to rent hotel rooms, or stupid degrees…” I added the last part almost under my breath.
I stabbed my straw into the dumpling, the broth was salty and I could taste meat. I was glad we were out of hte areas where I knew what the livestock were . My stolid refusal to eat pigs because of how cute they were had made my life kind of difficult in the known territories.
I sipped chunks of meat and shreds of cabbage through the straw. We sipped as we walked. I watched little tendrils of steam float from our soup dumplings.
I twirled at arm’s length like a child, pirouetting in my combat boots in the soft soil.
I stomped in the red iron rich soil in the cold, my black combat boots kicking up little snow storms of dust. My thin blue jeans were no match for the cold and my breath made little clouds in front of my mouth.
“What on Earth are you doing out here, Daneu?” I asked.
“This,” he routed around in his jacket for a minute and pulled out a very old piece of cloth paper and handed it to me.
“It’s Symmerian,” I said, looking at it. “Very old.”
I squinted at it.
“It’s not a dialect I’m familiar with,” I said.
“You can read that?” he asked with surprise.
“Yeah,” I said. “It says something about a city left behind…uh…lost to records…I don’t know.”
I lowered the paper in a gesture of giving up.
“I took it to five different experts in ancient and dead languages, nothing,” he said. “They couldn’t’ even tell me the base language.”
“They’re from an etching made by an archaeologist from a stone tablet he found in 1880 that I found on the internet when I was in year 9,” I said. “My father was working on sight in LA and I was basically locked in one room all day, every day, five days a week. I was seriously bored so I decided to learn them.”
“Where was the infamous Chloe Bordeaux during all this?” he asked. “I thought you were rivals your entire childhood.”
“She was back at homeschool programme, stealing all my friends and all the teacher’s affections,” I snipped.
“Wow, your childhood sucked,” Daneu said.
“Well, it had some benefits,” I said, raising the paper to my eyes again. “Now I know the weird language no one else does. Anywho, they’re pictographic, they represent whole words, not individual letters. This one means ‘City,’ or ‘Metropolis,’—basically anywhere where there’s a large settlement. This one means sort of ‘Lost,’ ‘Forgotten,’ like you could say an abandoned train station was this word,” I pointed at each one in turn.
“What’s it sound like?” Daneu asked.
“Phonetically, no one knows,” I said. “I pronounced them in Symmerian, but it could be anything.”
“What’s it say, though?” he asked.
My eyes skimmed over it.
“It’s a logue,” I said. “This was probably published or in someone’s diary…”
I took a deep breath.
“Airg’hil limón estré-” I started. “‘It was with a tearful heart as we left the shining shores of Reglecia for the last time. Many of us had dear’—Okay, well this says brothers and sisters, but I’m pretty sure it means like metaphorical brothers and sisters—’Behind, but many so of us, particularly the young, feel the need to set out again and continue on to explore new horizons and so we must leave our beloved shores behind to pursue a peaceful and comfortable pursuit of knowledge while we set out for new frontiers…'”
I looked up.
“It cuts off there,” I said. “But there is certainly more that’s not here.”
I turned the paper over. There was writing on the other side of it, fainter, in the same language.
“We sheltered for a night during the stellar storms. Stellar winds shook the buildings. This cataclysm must reach all the way to Sumera to the south’—Guessing that’s the root word for south and doesn’t actually mean south.—’We wondered if it reached all the way to Reglecia and hoped our brethren were faring well in our golden city.”
That was all I could make out. I was actually guessing from ‘our,’ to ‘golden city,’ but I’d figured it was an acceptable leap since they had referred to it as that on the other, more visible side.
“A massive stellar storm that effected multiple star systems across lights of space would be something would show up in the records,” I said. “So we could at least date this.”
“Some of these places, Sumera, they might still exist, or people might know where they are, or at the very least it’s three places to look for instead of one,” Daneu said. “You in?”