• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 11
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The Translator


21st August 2039

Oona Prince – Radio Presenter
Belle Rigby – First Mermaid Translator

OP: With us today we have Belle Rigby, the first woman – sorry, the first human – to successfully make contact with the Marei and live to tell the tale.

So Belle, take us back to 2027 when the threat from the Marei was very real. No one had survived an encounter before you. How did you get involved? Were you a volunteer with the Communication Mission?

BR: No, I was just a jobbing musician. They wanted language specialists. I was busking at the emergency port where Kew Gardens used to be. Admiral Tenant was there at the summit for the protection of the new sea borders. He came over to listen but I didn’t know who he was. He just stood with his eyes closed. I like it when people do that. Then he said he had a job for me. He told me later he had no idea if it would work but he’d just lost the first cohort of translators. My harp had made him think of a story he’d heard at school, Orpheus. I knew it from my ex who was into the Sandman comics. I only remembered the bit about him being ripped to shreds and his head left singing.

OP: But music was the key wasn’t it? Tell me what was it like to – is ‘talk’ the right word – with a mermaid.

BR: The way I think of it is this – if it was a different time I’d have been burned as a witch. Consorting with demons (laughs). The first time was on my fourth scout performance. I’d been playing for maybe 45 minutes – Tam Lin – and I felt someone join the song.


The Translator

When you learn a song you don’t start with the words, you sing the shape of it. That’s what I felt, the edge of a voice cutting into me. That was Oski. He was the first to learn to project at a frequency that didn’t implode human organs. He learned through listening to me play.

OP: And Oski became your husband, didn’t he?

BR: Yes. When the laws changed we married in Kew-Under, on the roof of the Great Pagoda, I love those dragons.

OP: Yet there is strong resistance to the Marei. We heard today from Parliament that there is a new plan to drain the cities. What’s your response to that?

BR: Some people still think like that, think the Earth is something they can take back. The Marei have expanded their territories and will expect their laws to hold. They’ve always taken humans.

OP: Sorry, what do you mean taken?


(Producer: Don’t leave it on dead air ask another question – just bloody say something.)

OP: Mrs Patterson from Snowdon would like to know what you think of the commemorative figurine?

BR: I didn’t wear a concert dress. I played stark naked. That’s how you talk – with your skin.