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.

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.”

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.”

Likha

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘likha’ or ‘to create womething through intelligence and skill’. 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 last sample of music from Irene was perfect, it had a strange kind of rhythm that fit the prompt for ‘peace’ beautifully and dropped into the playlist without any tweaking.

“Dad? Dad, come listen to this!” he called, setting the record to play.

His father shuffled into the room, gripping the doorframe heavily until Jo manoeuvred the chair into a suitable sitting position. The groan as he sat gave Jo momentary pause, his father was not particularly mobile but would rather have a tooth pulled than show any outward sign of discomfort.

“Are you ok?” he asked but was waved away with a scowl.

“Just play it, you’ve gone on about this whole message thing enough as it is,” his father replied.

Jo pressed play, eager to hear the collection of music play as a single entity for the first time. His palms itched with a fine sheen of sweat and he rubbed them against his jeans, eyes focused on his father’s reaction, as the piece began. He’d planned every section carefully to represent an emotive learning experience, something that would emphasise a flavour of earth; its history, its people and the desire to pave the future.

It was of moderate length and the first passage was linked to the ideas of creation and dawning, but every section was linked by the use of the key sounds from the signal woven into the underscore. Jo knew the moment Irene suggested the idea that it was perfect and he could hardly wait to send her the complied track. Her lawyer was still looking over the basic paperwork they’d put together, but it was Jo’s hope that they would finish up in the next few weeks in time to meet the first submission deadline.

“What do you-” he began, but was cut off by a sharp glare and a raised finger; a sign that he should be quiet or be in trouble that his dad had used since childhood.

Silenced, Jo began to pace as he listened to the next movement. Irene had responded to prompts for history and evolution by weaving together technical styles, composition and instruments from varying cultures and time periods until a much more modern sound developed. His breath caught as he realised the elements of conflict and peace had merged seamlessly and his heart sped with the tempo then dropped as the original Void Sounds sample filled the air and spilled into the idea of future and possibility.

As it finished Jo realised his face was wet and wiped his cheeks with the corner of his shirt, blaming the soreness of his eyes on the late nights of editing and merging different samples.

“Well, that was different,” Jo’s father said, his chin turned from Jo. “I’m sure it will do very well indeed.”

He stood, wobbling slightly, but pushed at Jo when he tried to offer a helping arm.

“No, no,” he said, and Jo noticed how gruff his father’s voice had turned. “I can get about just fine.”

“Dad?” Jo frowned, he wasn’t sure of the kind of reaction that he’d expected; although he’d have guessed either effusive congratulations or outright disparagement. His dad had become blunt in his old age and discomfort. “Is something wrong?”

His father turned slightly and for the first time since his mother’s funeral Jo saw tears on his face.

“Don’t embarrass an old man!” came the snapped response. “I’m going to go watch the news, get a view on your competition maybe. I’ll let you know if there’s anyone better yet.”

A half smile crept across Jo’s face as he watched his dad shuffle away. It wasn’t the response he’d expected, but maybe it was better.

Makisig

 

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘makisig’ or ‘dashing, well dressed’. 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.

***

It was difficult not to fidget with his tie as Luke checked his outfit once more in the hall mirror, but Momma had threatened to change the wifi password for a week if he didn’t leave the damned thing alone for the rest of the night. And Momma never made a threat she wouldn’t carry out.

“You look fine baby, Dr Strass and his friends are gonna be very impressed,” she said, emerging from the sitting room.

Momma looked pretty great too; she’d put on the dress she’d bought for New Year’s Eve and a row of cream pearls that glowed against the deep brown of her skin. The blue of her dress matched Luke’s suit closely enough that their reflections half merged when she slipped an arm around his shoulders and gave him a squeeze of solidarity.

“I just don’t want to embarrass Dr Strass, there’s a whole bunch of important folk gonna be there tonight,” Luke replied.

“I know, I know. Why’d you think I’m polished up and I read all those darned papers you been bringing home? Not that I understood more’n half of it, and when I read them out to your poor suffering Aunty Michele I thought that woman’s head was about to fall off from confusion!” Momma said, a wide grin on her face.

Luke snorted at the thought of his aunty trying to make sense of the research proposals and grant documentation. For all her play, Momma was a sharp woman and Luke hadn’t need to explain anything more than once despite some pretty high level theoretical principals. Aunty Michele on the other hand; she might be Momma’s best friend but a sharp tack she was not. And Luke wasn’t at all nervous about Momma coming with him to the dinner, it was the mess he might make at issue.

If only Dr Strass hadn’t taken him aside to let him know that some of the people attending were from prestigious science colleges, to suggest that it would be a good idea for Luke to start a little networking if he was going to be making applications in the fall. Ever since the conversation it was all Luke had been able to think about, because maybe Dr Strass thought he was pretty good at stuff but one dumb comment and Luke could mess the whole thing up.

“Baby, I can almost hear your thoughts whirling. Take a breath for me,” Momma told him and waited until he did as she said. “Good, now let it go and let all those crazy terrible ideas of yours go too. You’re a smart, handsome young man and wherever you end up will be lucky to have you, one dinner isn’t going to change the world. And even if it did, it wouldn’t change how proud I am of you. Now get your butt moving to the car, ‘cause being late isn’t an option tonight.”

The edges of Luke’s mouth tipped in a smile and he nodded, pocketing his wallet and keys. But he couldn’t help but wonder if Momma was wrong, as guilty as it made him feel, about one dinner not changing the world.

Amihan

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘amihan’ or ‘northest wind’. 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 wind running through the chimes sent them in a whirl of music, at the pitch Irene had been attempting to recreate in her studio with little success for hours. And wasn’t that just the lesson of the day? When you decide nothing will do but the sound of a genuine wind chime, go record them in the actual damned wind.

Her beaten up kangaroo weathervane swung sharply towards the north; trade winds blowing in her father used to call it. Although she doubted a northeast wind would be that helpful in the southern hemisphere. The chimes were caught again but in a clashing spiral, the soft breeze whipping into the kind of frenzy that happened before a storm.

Chewing at her lip, Irene considered the recording equipment. The chimes were just right, exactly what the sound needed to meet the set of word prompts Jo had sent through. But maybe she was missing something, maybe a good storm would be the next piece of the puzzle. She hung the chimes back over her front door as she mulled the idea over, a pang in her chest at thought that Adam would have been able to offer her the guidance she required. He’d always been better at emotive composition.

A fat raindrop landed at Irene’s feet, making up her mind. She gathered the recording equipment and headed through her house and onto the covered veranda at the back. Already the wind had bent the gum trees in her garden nearly in half as the storm rolled in on the back of heavy black clouds; rain drops falling first in twos and threes until the heavens opened and the downpour started in earnest. It sounded like drums, like rhythm and life.

Irene hurried to get the microphone out and set it up on the patio table, but the wind was fierce and the stand fell. After struggling for a few more moments she gave in and sat, microphone in hand, and watched as the storm raged around her. Whatever recording she made, it was going in the music now come hell or high water.

Kundiman

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

***

“Momma, I’m home!” Luke called as he push past the porch door and into the house.

There was music playing somewhere in the house and Luke dropped his bag at the foot of the stairs and followed the noise to the kitchen, where his momma was stood at the stove. She was still dressed in work clothes, stockinged feet silent on the tiled floor as her hips swung in time to the beat.

“You have a good day baby?” she asked, stirring a simmering pot without turning. “Oh, and there’s a fresh pitcher of sweet tea in fridge, pour me a glass while you’re up.”

“Yeah, pretty good I guess,” Luke said as he fixed two glasses up with ice and lemon slices. “Dr Strass got me running some of the numbers, said he wanted to see if I had a head to help out with more of the complex working. The stuff that’s more theoretical.”

Momma hummed in response and covered the bubbling pan with a lid, spinning lightly on her feet she clicked the volume on the radio up a few notches and held out a hand towards Luke.

“This was your grandma’s favourite, she and grandpa used to play it every Sunday after dinner,” she told him. He smiled and took his momma’s hand and swayed with her for a little while; he didn’t know the name of the song but he recognized the tune. Something from the sixties he thought, a love song of some kind.

When the song ended his momma rested her head on his shoulder and squeezed him tight. “You’re so smart, baby. Lord knows where you get it from, I ain’t worth two shakes when it comes to numbers; mind you your grandpa new plenty enough to run all his own books for the store. Maybe you got a little of that in your DNA, cause it wasn’t from your daddy.”

“Nah, I got it from Santa that Christmas, when you made me write that letter,” he said with a smile and ducked when his momma went to box him playfully around the head.

“Why you…,” she laughed and pointed at the little table against the far wall. “Get that table set and go wash up, don’t think I don’t know you left that bag of yours all messy in the hall too!”

“Love you too momma!” Luke replied and jogged out of the kitchen, he had some work in his bag he was dying to share and he just knew Momma would love it.