“This one.” I show him a blank sheet of paper.
“Fish, in a balloon.”
“This one?”
“The funeral of an astronaut.”
“Hm. This one.”
“Fingers with angry faces.”
“Scowling. Little noses, twitching.”
“Right. What about this one?”
“Cat, lying on a bed of money. It wants to talk to you.”
“Oh. Good.” Progress at last.
“The bills… sort of… flutter up. Fold up. Wait, they are spelling something out. In origami.”
“Spelling out what?”
“L – I – V – E – R. Is that good?”
“It’s… not bad. It’s not too bad.”

Casey was a good receiver, if new. I liked a fresh mind for a new project. Give me a Jack Keller and we will get there, sure, but the guy is primed. He’s top notch if we are talking to the Centurions, or the Glue. If one can ever really talk to the Glue, there’s some debate about that. But all that just gets in the way when you’re tuning into something brand-frigging-new.
Behind the screen, things like mandibles twitched. I shook out of it. We had to move on.

“Casey, can you try and – change something? Affect the picture?”
“Um… Okay… There: the money’s on fire. I think that was me.”
“Good. What’s the cat doing?”
Casey stared at the paper. “The cat is… it’s throwing up.”
I thought that was a good sign.

From what I can tell, we’re the laughing stock of the Galaxy. As far as that can be established, what with the whole concept of laughter being pretty much untranslatable, and us having only met seven species so far. Eight, if you count the mandible guys we were all trying not to call anything yet because those nicknames stick: just look at the Fishfingers. But anyway: mother Evolution has not been kind. Humans were at the wrong end of the wrong queue when they handed out telepathy.

Well, most of us.

“Casey, you’re doing great. Keep talking.”
“It’s hacking something awful – ah, there is something. A furball… no, it’s a little guy, a tiny, furry man.”
“He says…’We-come-in-peace.’ In, like, a robo-voice.”

I was right, Casey Wheeler was a wiz. Six months later, there’s still no other telepath who can understand the Mandible Guys.

I know, I know. But I swear I never said “Mandible Guys” out loud. Bloody psychics.

2 thoughts on “Communication”

  1. This story is little bits of a telepath trainers life – his training of a new recruit to communicate with a newly met species. This recruit eventually becomes the leading connection to this species.

    I enjoyed the whole piece-meal story telling, it feels like you crammed a whole short story into the length.

    I enjoyed the approach to the training – somewhat silly and slightly unclear – and the lightness and everydayness of the process.
    I think the form worked well for doing all the little bits you needed: The humour, the intro to the multi-species world and introspection about how humanity fits into the universe.The changes in style and place in time keep it fresh and pacy as you read it.

    Really liked the humourous touches around the species names and our humanness.

  2. This is the story of Casey, a telepathic “receiver”, and his unnamed handler. Casey is involved with using telepathy to study various alien races, and the handler seems to be evaluating how well Casey is performing.

    The beginning of this reminds me of the scene in the Ghostbusters movie, when Bill Murray’s character is testing some people for psychic powers using those cards that show stars and wavy lines and such-like on them.

    > “It’s… not bad. It’s not too bad.”
    I had originally read this as being a statement about what Casey was seeing, rather than on Casey’s performance. On a second reading I thought it might be about Casey’s performance (since the second paragraph begins by talking about that, and it seems to be the general vibe of the piece), but I’m not always 100% about that. For instance, there’s:

    > I thought that was a good sign.

    which I’m still unsure how I should read (is the cat throwing up good, or is Casey seeing this good?).

    I thought that the piece was humorous (for instance, the naming of the “mandible guys”) and light-hearted; it was fun to read.

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