In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘paraluman’ or ‘a muse that inspires artistically’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!

Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.


“I just want to say how great it is that you agreed to speak to me,” Jo said.

Irene Buchannan smiled at him from the screen and Jo nearly pinched himself again. She was an older woman, with hair much longer than was common amongst women of her age. It was more grey than blonde now but despite it, and despite the lines on her face and hands, she was still somewhat striking. Jo imagined there had been a time when she turned every eye in the room, and suspected she was still popular amongst gentlemen of her age.

“Well, I had to at least say hello. You did track me down after all,” she replied.

A hot flush ran up Jo’s neck and he ducked his head a little to hide the redness sure to bloom in his cheeks.

“That music, I know how crazy I sound but I truly think it’s the answer; we’re the only species on this planet that is known to create music – did you know that?” he asked but continued, words jumbled together before she could reply. It was exciting just to think about, but to say it out loud to someone like Irene? Jo just couldn’t stop. “And that’s why I think it’s the perfect response, you don’t have to speak a language to understand meaning in sounds. A wounded animal make noises in the same pitch as a sad song, we express so enormously through melody that for me it’s the perfect medium. And that’s what I’m proposing; a collaboration!”

It was difficult to gauge response on camera, the quality of the chat video, although good, lacked the detail for Jo to track the nuances of Irene’s expression. But she hadn’t laughed or hung up the call, not yet anyway.

“I’m not sure, if I’m honest, I don’t know you at all Mr Ward and I’ve been in the business long enough that I won’t agree to anything unless we can hash something out for a lawyer to look over,” she said after a moment. “And you’re talking about collaboration, but I haven’t yet heard what you’ll be doing.”

Taking a breath, Jo swallowed back the taste of iron in his mouth. Irene’s comments were totally reasonable and not entirely unexpected, he just hadn’t quite thought about the details yet. Not really. He fiddled with the power cable of his laptop out of nervous habit and tried his best to steady his voice.

“I’m going to ‘arrange’ a message using emotional values to convey meaning,” he explained. “I- well I guess that once I heard Void Sounds I knew that there were chunks of music in there that I could use. But, if we’re being really honest, then I’m hoping you might possibly put together some additional pieces to support the message overall. I love Void Sounds, but a reply shouldn’t just use their own sound, it should be something personal to us too. As a species.”

To Jo’s surprise, Irene was nodding as he finished his explanation, her face brightened to the point that age seemed to drop away somewhat and Jo could see more than just a shadow of the beautiful young woman she had been.

“That, Mr Ward, is an idea I could get behind,” Irene paused and her gaze directed from the screen to something else in the room off camera. “You wouldn’t know it, but my husband and I had a game we used to play, we left messages in musical notes that the other had to decipher.”

Jo watched in fascination as her fingers began tapping out rhythms on the table top to the side of her computer, her eyes focused elsewhere.

“I can almost hear it already,” she said, then blinked back at him. “You get that message idea together, I’ll want to look it over. And get something in writing to me about the whole venture, I’ll have to get Den to read it.”

“I, yes, sure I’ll get to it right-,” he began, and stopped. A blank screen gazed back at him, Irene had already ended the call.

Jo swung on his chair, ideas already forming.

“Bloody hell, this might just work!”




3 thoughts on “Paraluman

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