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He Carried Manuscripts in Curious Languages

by Alex Dally MacFarlane

On the shore of an island made entirely of sand, I met a man waiting for the same ship as I. We stood on the jetty and, to the rhythmic wash of waves against wood, we talked.

I told him of my desire to see the world’s most curious places. “That is why I am waiting for the ship,” I told him. “The island it journeys to is meant to be quite remarkable: trees bearing garnets and sapphires as fruit, parrots with beaks on their feet, people born with metal rings growing from their ears.”

“I have heard that their people speak and write a language known only by them.” As he spoke, he shifted the two baskets on a pole that he rested across his shoulders.

“What do you carry in those? Your clothes?”

“Some. But most of their weight is made up of manuscripts.”

“What are they about?”

He smiled, then -- a curve of his lips and a crease of his eyes that made him beautiful. “One manuscript is a collection of poems about the rain. Another is a bestiary. A third, as small as my hand, is a story of travelling through time; a fourth is a collection of floral paintings with mutterings about astronomy on the petals. As for the other then, I do not know. I cannot read their scripts.”

“Why do you carry them?” I asked, fascinated.

“I am rich and bored. I bought them at auction, and now I travel to isolated or unique places in the hope that they will be able to read the texts for me. When they can, oh, it is the most marvelous thing.”

The ship arrived then, with its dark green sails and only one cabin.

He was a curiosity, and it was a night’s sailing to the island. I showed him the tattoos curling around my broad brown nipples and he demonstrated the feel of a foreskin-piercing inside both of my lower orifices.

Afterwards, I asked him to let me see his manuscripts. “I am from a far-away place. Perhaps I can read one.”

I could, and I read it to him: a geography lesson of islands that grew from the sea like sores.

He thanked me, and pleaded with me to travel with him for a while, but I declined. I do not like to stay long with curiosities -- they too quickly become normal.

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