One day in May the whole household woke up to loud wails in which little Brinda had at last communicated. The shrieks and drones did not last long. When they spoke of it next morning they found some differences in their accounts.
Father said she sounded like a distant bagpipe. Mother heard rapid singing played to loud drumbeats. Grandpa, who was the most experienced in ancient tongues although hard of hearing said the language of the Gods could never be translated in full, which was how God bestowed his graces to one and all. For Imli, the twin sister, to whom Brinda had never left, it was a whole new foreign language.
Nevertheless, what Brinda was telling everyone was that she floated in colorful rings of silky ice-dust on a backdrop of stars, with crystals for hair and abundance of ground glass in grand gardens which glinted like the sun, bright colors in every hue even in the darkness of night. All agreed that the girl’s linguistic capabilities had been seriously altered. Instead of speaking the language of her native land, Tamil, Brinda had become fluent in Saturnian, the language of the planet Saturn, which was preposterous. Mother considered the implications gravely. More religious than the rest of her family she wondered why God had sent her child so soon to heaven? Father called it all a bad joke. Imli disappeared for days doing god-alone-knows-what. Grandpa said Brinda’s awakened voice sounded what seemed to be a British accent.
Word of this new language spread fast. Within weeks the small town was rife with speculation about the mystery new girl-goddess of the planets and stars. Visitors came to bask in her golden aura. Many astrologers arrived to communicate with Brinda, in hospital. They were unsuccessful. They drew charts and horoscopes and came for more. Clerics flocked in large numbers, but had no better luck. Even a couple of exorcists followed. Father chased them away. They were the overzealous kind who would kill a person to extract the demon. Father stopped believing in demons long ago. He even thought God was out of fashion.
Careful round-the-clock surveillance was maintained to observe speech patterns and symptoms and the young girl’s auric glow. One famous Swedish linguist who spent several months studying Brinda’s alleged native planet Saturn connection was supposed to have remarked “She’s speaking a language I don’t understand. It’s as if she resides there!”
Father, who was a born-again atheist complained the loudest in the marketplace that the weather being unseasonably hot that year had caused the fire-ants and June bugs to come out in large numbers a whole month early, which was the cause of his family’s simultaneous nightmares. Mother talked and wept non-stop at the bamboo grove where the women collected, and through her kitchen window to her neighbors, so engrossed she burnt her chicken pulau. Grandpa left to his own devices in the palm wine joints where others gathered to swap stories contemplated on the notion of women-gods and how poor the timing when the whole world was turning into non-believers. Imli, who had grown into a tomboy over the years was forced to stop sporting activities or wear jeans, no climbing of trees over ten feet high, or hanging from branches eating gooseberries and spitting out seeds, and she had to drink goat milk so she would grow sure-footed like a goat.
On that fateful day in May the twins had been playing rough as they usually do, screaming and chasing after each other. Their mother had disinfected and polished the tile floors till they shone like diamonds which would cause any adult let alone child to have a bad accident, as Brinda had, suffering serious head damage, which sent her to Saturn. But such are the ways of God when He has chosen.
Rekha Valliappan is a short story writer and poet. Her work appears in numerous international journals and magazines including most recently Lackington’s, Aphelion, Madras Courier, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Five:2:One, Foliate Oak, Liquid Imagination, Best Short Stories from Schlock! Quarterly, Best of Fiction from Across The Margin and Prize Winning Short Stories from Ouen Press (UK). She won the Boston Accent Lit Prize for Short Fiction and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.