The Linguist

Submitted into Contest #48 in response to: Write about someone who has a superpower.... view prompt



Daphne had never been cool. She had always been the one hanging back, unsure of her place among her peers, cringing from social situations, and other than her job, living her life alone. She didn't mind the loneliness so much, but once in a while- once in a while a little human interaction was what she needed more than she needed to breathe. That was the feeling that had led her to go to the night club. She was well over twenty one, and likely the only patron in her age group who was experiencing this environment for the first time. Still, she decided to make the most of it, and headed toward the crowd, bracing herself for whatever may come.

Several years ago, when Daphne had entered the mysterious stage of puberty, she'd had a unique experience. She had been raised in a foster home, and no one had explained what to expect, so with all the other changes her body had gone through, it wasn't such a shock to develop an Ability. After all, the transformation of scrawny little girl to curvy young woman was no less magical to her. Luckily, her ability wasn't something you could see, so she was able to hide it well, once she'd seen the reactions she'd gotten.

Daphne was a Linguist. She could literally speak any language known to man, including ASL. She had thought it would be seen as cool, and possibly be a ticket to a few friends, but she hadn't met any kids at school who spoke any other language than English. Therefore, she was officially a freak.

Apparently other people are uncomfortable if you are saying something that no one else can understand. They feel threatened by it somehow, as though the words you speak could be the utterances of mysterious threats that Daphne had no idea why anyone thought she'd perpetrate. After all, when speaking to oneself, one could not form an evil plan and act as a group. So- she had stopped. She occasionally watched foreign films for her own enjoyment, further alienating her from her foster family, but no real harm had come of it.

Daphne scanned the crowd at the club. Mostly it was people her age, slightly younger, maybe. She nodded to some women as they passed her and was encouraged that they didn't seem put off by her. So accustomed to ridicule and being a pariah, she saw anything less than outright hostility as encouragement. She glanced around until she saw a couple of women who looked to be around her own age. She cautiously approached them, trying to seem confident. They smiled at her so began speaking to them, introducing herself.

“What do you do for a living, Daphne?” a woman who said her name was Danielle asked.

“I'm an assistant teacher,” answered Daphne. “ I work with Kindergartners.”

“Oooh!” trilled Felicia, the other woman. “ I just loooove kids! They are the cutest!”

Wow, thought Daphne. She's bubbly. She pressed on. “Uh, yeah, they're cute I guess. What I like most about them is they take people at face value. No expectations. They just want love and approval. They learn so quickly, too.” Noticing that Felicia didn't actually look all that interested in hearing more, she stopped and asked them what they did. Felicia was a nurse and Danielle was a cosmetologist.

“Oh, so you get to work with people, too?” Daphne was interested in hearing more, but the other ladies were not about to spend their night off talking about work. “Let's get some more drinks and then dance!” Felicia whooped.

“Uh, OK,” mumbled Daphne.

The next two hours were spent alternating between pretending she liked the various mixed drinks she tried (and mostly didn't finish) and attempting to mimic the surrounding dancers. She hadn't had much practice but fortunately, most of the dancing consisted of bumping and grinding and basically looking as though you were having upright intercourse with an invisible partner. Daphne squelched her embarrassment. She was one of many, and nobody paid her the slightest attention. Grimly determined, she ground her hips and waggled her butt, hoping she would start to enjoy it soon.

It was approaching two o'clock AM. And Daphne had had enough. Her hips and thighs ached and she only had one more day to recover before Monday morning came barreling at her. As it was, she was going to feel the remnants of the evening when she stooped to wipe noses or sat with the kids on the carpet to keep the little ones quiet during story time. Suddenly, there was a lurch in the crowd next to her and someone began to scream for help. More people, close enough to see whatever was happening,

began crying out as well, and Daphne and her new friends squirmed through the crowd to see what was needed.

A man was lying on the floor, holding his chest. He was around middle age, and obviously in some serious trouble. Felicia rushed forward. “I'm a nurse!” she cried. The patrons let her past and she knelt next to the man. She murmured to him but then looked around in baffled anguish. “Does anyone know him? Who is he with?” No one responded. She tried speaking to him again. He was responding, yet Felicia shook her head slowly, not understanding. “He doesn't speak English, is there anyone here with him? He can't tell me what's wrong!”

Daphne jerked as though she'd touched a live wire. This is why, she thought. This is why it happened. With uncharacteristic confidence, Daphne walked up to the man and knelt down. “What language is he speaking?” Her voice was calm and Felicia looked up in surprise. “I-I don't know. I'm not sure.”

Daphne looked down at the man. He was sweating freely and obviously in distress. He looked Asian, Vietnamese, maybe? She hadn't met any people from any Asian country so she wasn't sure. She tried that first. “Chuyen gi the? Ban bi om a?” He shook his head, his meaning clear. She tried Chinese, then Japanese. Ignoring the gasp from Felicia, she tried Korean. “Mwoga jalmos doeeoss ni? Neo apeuni?” He began to speak to Daphne and she nodded, translating for Felicia. He had a heart condition, but wasn't having a heart attack. He needed us to call his brother to take him for medical care. She couldn't convince him to wait for the ambulance that she knew had been called. He insisted on his brother, handing her his phone. He was gasping and she knew speaking above the noise of the crowd of people was beyond him. He indicated that he had medicine to take, but had forgotten it. She was to instruct his brother to bring it and tell him where to find the right one. She quickly relayed the information to his brother in Korean, then sat back on her heels, just now looking around. Her own heart threatened to misfire. The stares from her childhood were back. Every eye was on her. Danielle helped her to her feet. “How do you know all those languages? I thought you were a teacher's assistant?”

“I am. Um, I can't really explain very well. It's time for me to go. Felicia has this under control.” She started to turn away but was stopped by a gentle hand on her arm. It was Felicia. She pulled Daphne in for a hug. “That was amazing! We could really use an interpreter at the hospital like you! You ever want a job, you come talk to me. I know they'd hire you!” Warmth filled Daphne's chest and bloomed up her neck into her face. Blushing wildly, she nodded her appreciation and turned again to leave. She had never really seen the possibilities. Her ability went beyond understanding foreign films and saying things that she thought only she understood. She had been given a gift. She pondered this to herself, how much more could she do with it? She left the club, knowing that she had been transformed yet again.

June 26, 2020 23:12

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Pamela Saunders
19:58 Jul 05, 2020

I really liked this :)


Laura Austin
18:44 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you!


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Katie Day
15:17 Jul 07, 2020

This was such an interesting story, and I loved the idea of language feeling both inclusive and alienating!


Laura Austin
18:43 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you so much!


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Reena B.
16:22 Jul 04, 2020

I loved this story! I like how you used it to convey the power of language. Good luck with your writing!


Laura Austin
19:13 Jul 04, 2020

Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement!


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