Tadhana

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘tadhana’ or ‘an invisible force that makes thing happen beyond the control of mortals’. 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.

***

The morning sunlight was warm and soothing, it calmed the roiling coffee in Jo’s empty belly as he sat and observed the world. The energy that had filled his every waking moment for the past month seemed strangely absent after the events of the previous day. Instead Jo was filled with calm satisfaction.

“Well, that’s the look of a man who’s achieved something. I’ve worn it myself a time or two,” his father announced, limping onto the patio. “And not underserved, to hear Irene tell last night.”

Jo smiled and felt the smile stretch until it split into a wide grin. He lent back as far as his chair would tilt and took a deep breath, holding the chilled air in his lungs for a moment then expelling it with loud sigh.

“I keep telling myself that we haven’t made it yet, Dad. There’s a lot of clever people out in the world working on it, some of the stuff we saw yesterday was pretty amazing,” he said. “But I can’t help this little bit of hope, it’s like a voice at the back of my head saying that we’ve won, that we’ll breeze through the rest of the heats. Can you imagine? My work might be the first used to speak to life across the universe!”

His father chuckled and sat heavily, wincing a little, and waved for Jo to hand him the coffee.

“You and I, we like to see things to believe them Jo. Science, mathematics; I spent my life depending on the truth of those pillars and I taught you to do the same,” he said, sipping at a steaming mug. “Your mother though, she was a woman of faith, and I have to say that at times like these I tend to think she’d be better placed to help you. She used to tell me that sometimes it was important to just believe; to know that there was something greater than all of us out there. Maybe she was right, not some man up in the clouds right of course, but about a-a wider purpose of some kind, a guiding force?”

The old man fell silent for a moment, staring out over the garden.

“You know,” he continued, “I’ve wondered myself if there’s a reason we’re alive right now. Things lost their shine a bit after your mother died and then all this trouble with my hips and back, but I’ve thought a lot about it all recently. And I think this is it, I think perhaps I believe, a bit, that you and Irene have that greater purpose and I get to live to see it.”

Jo felt strangely comforted by his father’s words and reached to grip his hand tight. He’d been shaped by the hero worship he’d lavished on his father as a child, but as he’d aged he’d come to see a man and later, sometimes, a burden. It had been a guilty thought at times, the worry and frustration of dealing with an aging and infirm parent. But Jo couldn’t imagine a world where he wouldn’t have shared this moment with his father, and maybe that was a higher power, fate, God or whatever people wanted to call it.

“Sometimes Dad, you know just what to say. And I couldn’t have done this without you, you’re as much a part of it as either me or Irene,” Jo said.

His father tightened his grip on Jo’s hand briefly and took another short sip of coffee. It was, Jo thought, a perfect morning.

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Gigil

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘gigil’ or ‘uncontrollable urge to pinch or squeeze someone’. 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.

***

“Ow! Stop with the – the pinching thing! You’re a grown woman!”

“Oh have some fun Jo!” Irene laughed and prodded him again, the younger man squeaked pleasingly and Irene decided that she liked the sound very much. “Besides, this is exciting! My first trip to England and for a science seminar of all things!”

Jo tutted and dodged Irene’s questing fingers at the last minute. She huffed at the disappointment and tried to calm her heart a little. It was strange to be so excited, but the life she’d promised to start leading again was a strange road filled with new opportunities. It bubbled under her skin until she itched with energy from the soles of her feet and up to the tips of her fingers, where it emerged in the urge to nip and tickle.

“Get away! Look, it’s not far now to the Science Museum, just keep your hands to yourself until then. Deal?” Jo asked.

She nodded and tucked her hands into her pockets. The weather in London was surprisingly warm, Irene had expected dreary rain and packed accordingly but her sweater was a touch too thick. The greenery was a surprise too, the park they’d cut across was beautiful and the trees reminded her of her mountain home just enough for a spike of apprehension to sneak through her excitement.

“Tell me again what’s happening today? Den got really excited when I told him where I was going but I haven’t followed it all that closely if I’m honest,” she said, hurrying to match Jo’s stride.

“It’s the first review of the UK submissions for the response signal,” he explained. “The contest won’t close globally until next year, but there’s such a massive response rate that they decided to start thinning the numbers out by holding national heats.”

“Well, I guess its sink or swim time then,” Irene said, and, unable to resist, snuck another quick pinch.

“Ow! Irene!”

“Sorry Jo, I just can’t seem to resist. Its nerves, I feel terrible,” she apologised and tried to cover the insincerity in her voice by tucking her hands away once more. Jo was just so damned pinch-able.

“Whatever, we’re here anyway,” Jo pointed to an enormous building with a queue that stretched half way down the street. He stopped and unhooked his backpack, fishing inside for something. “Here we, invitations. Let’s see if these work as a queue jump, if not we might not make it inside in time!”

He handed Irene a thick piece of card with her name typed in fine black copperplate lettering and hurried towards a very official looking security guard. Irene followed a little slower, admiring the building and enjoying the buzz of people chattering. There was so much life in the city; there was in the bush too but she felt like she was reclaiming a piece of herself she’d forgotten when Adam passed. And there it was, there first time in nearly a day since she’d thought about Adam at all.

“I’m choosing life, Adam. I hope that’s ok, but even if it isn’t; I’m doing it.”

Halakhak

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘halakhak’ or ‘loud, uninhibited laughter’. 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.

***

The fine sheen of sweat on Yuna’s body dried slowly, bringing a comforting chill as her heartbeat slowed. Shima peppered soft kisses across the top of her shoulder, shorting panting breaths deepening as he too recovered. Her bedroom was a mess, the bed sheets tangled around them, pillows strewn far and wide with a trail of clothing lay scattered across the floor; a treasure trail leading from the living room where Shima had finally made his move.

She traced a hand over Shima’s belly and up to his chest, tapping in time to the heavy rhythm of his heart pound under her fingers and felt a broad smile split her face.

“You’re looking very satisfied all of a sudden, I think that should be my job!” Shima huffed, adding a nip of teeth to his next kiss.

It startled a half giggle from Yuna and it was as if a dam had broken on the cautious joy she’d held back over the past weeks. The giggle changed to a loud, happy laugh and she pounced on Shima, running her fingers along his sides until he was laughing too.

“Ah! Yuna!” he yelped as she found a spot that appeared particularly sensitive. “I knew there was a wild side lurking somewhere but I didn’t expect – ah! Not there! – I didn’t expect this!”

Collapsing against him, Yuna buried her face in Shima’s neck.

“I think I may be truly happy,” she admitted. The words felt like an acknowledgment of the truth that had been lurking on the tip of her tongue since answering the door that evening. A hollow place she hadn’t even really known existed felt a little fuller, and it was as exhilarating as it was terrifying.

“Hey, it’s very demoralising as a man when a woman laughs after sex you know!” Shima said, poking her in the side. There was a smile in his voice and she nipped at his earlobe, revelling in the way he shuddered at the sensation. “Ah! Starting me up again, you’ll be worn out for that big meeting tomorrow.”

“I don’t care about work or meetings right now,” she replied and realised it was the truth. “And I’ll laugh whenever I want.”

Shima rolled, pinning Yuna beneath him. His smile answered her own and he lay propped on one arm, eyes surveying her in a way that might have once left her feeling uncomfortable or exposed.

“You’re right, you should absolutely laugh whenever you want but especially when you’re with me,” he said and laid a gentle kiss on her forehead.

It was a revelation that laughter could be free and joyful and Yuna felt that, no matter what the future held, that moment of happiness would live with her for the rest of her life.

Yugto

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘yugto’ or ‘fundamental transition or development’. 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.

***

There were voices coming from the lounge when Luke walked through the door and he frowned, Momma hadn’t mentioned plans for anyone to visit and he was a sweaty mess from practice.

“Luke? That you baby?” his momma called from the sitting room.

“Yeah Momma, just gonna go wash up,” he replied, starting for the stairs.

“Never mind that now, come here.”

Frown deepening, Luke did as he was told. Momma always insisted he clean up before he spoke to company. And when he stepped through the doorway he wished he’d headed straight upstairs, Dr Strass was waiting with one of the scientists who’d been at dinner the other evening. Both were dressed casually, but there was a whole pile of paperwork laid out on the coffee table that looked pretty formal.

“Sit down son, Dr Hamil and I have some information we’d like to discuss with you and your momma,” Dr Strass said.

Luke did as he was told, conscious that he was sitting in dirty track pants on Momma’s clean chair. He caught her eye carefully to gauge her reaction but Momma just beamed at him, some papers in her hand.

“Luke, I was very impressed by you and by the information Dr Strass shared with me about your potential and your interests,” Hamil said, his voice sincere. “You mentioned the other night that there weren’t many courses right now on astrobiology, and that’s true, but the University I represent runs one of the best and is a top five in the US for space studies overall. With the signal and the work being done to advance our understanding of potentially intelligent extra-terrestrial life there’s a lot of talk of expanding the program we offer. And I’d like you to consider joining it, in fact I’d go so far as to say we’re looking at offering you a place.”

It felt like Luke’s stomach had hit the floor, his mouth filled with cotton and he coughed a little, unable to speak.

“Dr Hamil’s been showing me the documents, it’s a full ride and to one of the best colleges out there but it’s up to you baby,” Momma said, patting Luke on his knee.

“I-I mean…” words just wouldn’t come no matter how hard Luke tried and he looked at Dr Strass in mute distress.

“I think it’s a big decision and a good opportunity, so it needs some thinking time. Lukey-boy’s home and you’ve sprung a whole lot of news on him, let’s give him a couple of days,” Dr Strass advised, rising from his chair.

Hamil nodded and shuffled the papers into a tidy pile.

“This may not be the only offer you’re looking for, so I understand if the answer is no. There’s a lot of future for you out there but I believe we can provide you with a great foundation,” he held a slip of paper out to Luke, who took it with trembling fingers. “Here’s my card, you give me a call when you’ve made up your mind.”

The two professors shook hands with Luke’s momma, who thanked them although Luke could feel her eyes on him. They were at the door by the time he managed to get his lips and tongue working together once again.

“Wait, I-I want to. I mean, it’s exactly the offer I wanted and I’d very much like to look over those papers with you, Dr Hamil!” he called out.

Hamil turned, face lit in a bright grin.

“Well alright then, Luke. Let’s get down to the details.”

Pahimakas

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘pahimakas’ or ‘last fairwell’. 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.

***

“Are you sure about this? You and Adam loved this place, Irene.”

Irene rolled her eyes and carried on packing up a box of kitchen utensils. Sarah meant well, but the little apartment in Sydney should have been emptied and sold a long time ago. Irene hadn’t been able to face it since Adam passed, but it felt right to move on and to let go of a place that she would never share with him again.

“I’m sure and the memories we made here were enough to last a lifetime, it’s time someone else has the same opportunity,” she replied, examining a novelty corkscrew she couldn’t remember buying. “I think I need to have a junk sale or something, I don’t even know why we owned half this stuff! Maybe when I’m back from my trip?”

She tossed the corkscrew into a large box of random items and dug back into the draw of implements. Having been without so many of the items for so long she began to seriously consider the practicality of trucking it all back to her home in the Blue Mountains.

“So you’re still going then?” Sarah asked, her voiced sounded a little off and Irene glanced from her task to find Sarah staring at an old photo of everyone at the beach.

“Sarah?”

Her friend looked up at Irene and smiled sadly.

“I loved him too you know,” Sarah said. “Not like you, of course. But in my own way, as friends, and I miss what we all had. I thought we’d been so lucky to have the chance to grow old together, old people moaning about bloody kids getting on our nerves.”

Irene sighed, her chest tightening the same way it had a thousand times over the past year. But she’d done a great deal of soul searching since she’d begun to come alive again and thought she had a little wisdom to share with her friend.

“I wasn’t sure I could be anything but a shell of a person after Adam died,” she admitted. “Oh sure, I went about my day, I saw people. And I felt nothing. But I realised recently that there’s still so much life out there, the world will keep turning whether I’m part of it or not. And I do want to be part of it, because as long as I’m really living then it feels a little bit like Adam is living too.”

Sarah nodded but kept her face turned from Irene, just as she had when they were teenagers and argued. Setting aside the box of utensils, Irene took her friend by the shoulders and pulled her into a firm hug. She felt Sarah shudder against her, body tense and was pushed away.

“I’m sorry, it just feels so final. Like selling this place is a last goodbye,” her friend explained and gave a watery smile. “Let me pull myself together, no more bloody drama. I promise.”

The sentiment hit close to home but Irene nodded and waved Sarah out of the room. She looked around the apartment, memorising the moment and the chapter of her life that selling it would close. It took a moment to remind herself that it wasn’t the end of her story, just another beginning.

Kinaadman

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘kinaadman’ or ‘knowledge’. 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.

***

Maliha shuffled her notes and tried to make sense of the words where the ink had been blurred by her fingers. She couldn’t shake the feeling that everything was moving too fast, like a boulder gathering speed as it rolled downhill; sure to smash anything in its path without direction or control. But almost despite herself she couldn’t seem to stop; in less than five days their building had been cleaned and rearranged. She and Ramin now had offices and the exhibition room was coming along nicely. Ramin had used the time to track down some of their friends and explained Maliha’s vision, some had been interested enough to agree to help out at least temporarily.

But it all needed money, and there was precious little left until they attracted sponsors, which was why it was so important that she make a good impression on Tariq Khan. The man was well known for philanthropic acts and had been vocal about his interest in SUPARCO, Pakistan’s space agency, joining worldwide efforts to develop information on the exoplanet believed to be the source of the signal.

“He’ll be just a few minutes longer Ms. Hassan.”

Maliha, startled from her thoughts, flashed a smile and nod at Khan’s secretary. The chair she sat in was comfortable but she couldn’t help but fidget a little, the air seemed sticky and close despite fans turning overhead. The door to Khan’s office clicked open and Maliha flinched, dropping one of her cards. She scrambled to pick it up, and felt very luck when she realised the gentleman who walked through the door was not Khan himself.

“You can go straight through Ms. Hassan,” the secretary instructed and Maliha chose to ignore the way the woman’s lips had turned up at the corners.

Inside Khan’s office was surprisingly plain, and very modern, decorated in shades of white and grey with a large glass desk. But where the office was simple, Tariq Khan was not. Surprisingly youthful for his age, his thick black hair was cut very short on the sides and tapered into a neat beard. His clothing was in a traditional style and made from the kind of elaborate fabrics that Maliha associated with Eid celebrations, in shades of gold and red with a cream sash fastening over one shoulder. She felt positively casual in her dress by comparison and tugged at the edge of one long sleeve uncomfortably.

Realising she’d been staring, Maliha rushed forward and instinctively offered her hand, only realising her error when it was too late. “Thank you for seeing me Mr Khan, particularly on such short notice.”

Khan smiled and took her hand in a firm shake.

“Not at all Ms. Hassan. From your accent I think you must be American?” he said and gestured for her to sit.

“Pakistani by birth, but raised from childhood in Canada,” Maliha replied. “Most of my mother’s family still live around Karachi however.”

Khan nodded benignly but his eyes were sharp, he reminded Maliha of her father in his mannerisms and she made up her mind to take the plunge rather than dance around her request.

“Mr Khan, as I’m sure you suspect, I’m here to ask for money,” she began. “In the past few weeks there have been fourteen attacks on individuals accused of blasphemy following their sharing information about the signal, this doesn’t include some of the abuse and threats key scientists within the Pakistani community are receiving. I want to combat the problem through the sharing of knowledge. Not at universities, not in private seminars where the wealthy can agree with each other, but in an open location that offers a safe haven for learning and sharing unbiased information with the general population.”

Chest heaving, Maliha paused. Khan was watching her keenly but made no move to speak so she continued. “The work my colleagues and I have already done demonstrates a significant population using online forums and social media as a speaking platform, but there is intrinsic mistrust of internet data; it’s so easy to falsify. We already have a building we believe can be appropriately secured for use as a physical location for peer to peer discussion as well as guest lectures and exhibitions, but not the funding to see it through.”

Khan hummed and sucked at his teeth slightly as Maliha finished but she waited, unwilling to be drawn into babbling any further. Silence was an important tactic and she let it linger.

“I like the principal of the idea and I commend your bravery in approaching me in a forthright manner,” khan said after a moment. “But I won’t commit until I see a working development plan.”

Maliha felt a stab of satisfaction and reached into her bag for the USB stick she’d prepared.

“If you are willing to look this over, I have taken the liberty of putting together an expenditure and business plan along with a 12 month vision timeline,” she replied as she handed the device to him.

Eye’s narrowed, he accepted it and tapped it on the desk thoughtfully. “I’ll look at it,” he said. “Tell me, why do you think spreading knowledge like this is so important?”

While the question wasn’t entirely unexpected, Maliha took a moment to think before she answered, tugging once more at her sleeves as she thought.

“I suppose I believe that the world is going to change now,” she replied slowly. “And I want Pakistan and our people to be an active and important part of that change. We can’t change the history that led us to shape the society we have now, but by sharing knowledge we can give people the opportunity to shape their future.”

Khan stared for a moment then turned to the intercom on his desk.

“Mrs Zaidi, please prepare a cheque for Ms. Hassan before her departure. She’ll let you know the value.”

Dalisay

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘dalisay’ or ‘pure’. 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.

***

The lights were dimmed for the movie, but Yuna hadn’t bothered to turn them up again when it finished. She and Shima were comfortable in the artificial twilight, the DVD menu looping in the background as they talked.

It was such simple conversation; their day, people at work, plans to buy a car. And yet Yuna found herself relaxed, happy even. The first date at her home had always been a stage in the game, an invitation to intimacy on the promise of maintaining a socially acceptable and therefore mutually beneficial relationship.

But when Shima had mentioned his desire to share an old movie with her, it seemed completely natural to extend an invitation for a casual Sunday together. The panic afterwards to plan a meal and select a suitably casual outfit had rendered Yuna almost unrecognisable even to herself, but her practiced dinner, nabe followed by flan, and the standard black dress felt wrong when she imagined Shima. He liked colour and spice and relaxation, and Yuna found herself wanting the same things.

“Ah, it’s getting late and I have to get the train,” Shima said, glancing at his watch. “I wish I could spend every Sunday like this, your curry making skills are incredible!”

“So soon? I have dessert too… you seemed to like the green tea cake from Super Sweet very much when we visited,” Yuna replied. Her chest felt tight at the idea that Shima might leave, and she’d deliberately hidden dessert when she’d gone to fetch drinks from the kitchen earlier with the intention of extending the evening as along as possible. “Shall I fetch it? The trains will run for another hour.”

“Yuna! You are a devil woman, but I can’t say no!” Shima declared, grinning as he threw himself back onto the cushions.

Hiding a secret smile, Yuna collected the two plates of cake from the fridge. A glimpse of her reflection in the window gave her a moment of pause and she glanced at the doorway to the living room. After a moment of hesitation she put down the plates and let down her hair, ruffling it slightly, before she bit at her bottom lip to make it a little fuller. Maybe they weren’t playing by the rules of the game but that didn’t mean Yuna wasn’t ready for a little seduction.

“Please enjoy,” she announced as she returned, passing Shima’s portion of cake into his eager hands.

“Still so delicious!” he exclaimed after the first bite, although Yuna noticed the way his eyes slid over the changes in her appearance. He was too clever a man not to notice or to understand what it meant. “Your hair looks very pretty, I think this is the first time I’ve seen it loose.”

“I thought I should relax a little,” Yuna said. She felt her heart begin to beat a little quicker and put down her plate. Nervousness was a new sensation and she couldn’t help the way she tucked her hair behind her ears or dropped her gaze to Shima’s mouth.

“Hey, Yuna… I-I have a question,” he said, setting his own plate aside and leaning closer until Yuna could almost feel the heat of his body radiating in the inches that separated them. “Well, not a question maybe, but I would like very much to kiss you, if you don’t mind?”

The smile that crept over the corners of her lips was unstoppable but rather than answer in words, Yuna lifted a hand pressed it to the side of Shima’s face to draw him near. The kiss was gentle, not a great deal more than the damp press of lips together, but the sensation spread like the sun through her flesh and settled bone deep. The coldness that Yuna so carefully preserved around her heart was warmed, if not quite melted, and she wondered what it would be like to feel Shima’s heart beating in rhythm with her own.

When he withdrew the warmth lingered and he smiled at her so softly that Yuna wasn’t sure where to look. “Now I really must go, a perfect evening should be ended at the right moment I think.”

As much as she would have liked to protest, Yuna appreciated the sentiment. Besides, it gave her time to plan another evening, one meant for seduction.

“If you’re free next week, I’d like to see the sequel?”