Polyglot (Fiction)

Short fiction to inspire my students (and you)!

"...just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world..."

Anne bobbed her head to the music as she crossed Place D’Armes on a sunny afternoon in Montreal. It was pure summer. The tourists were out, Americans mostly, but also Mexicans, Brazilians and a large Japanese tour group. The square in front of Notre-Dame buzzed with conversations in at least half a dozen languages. But something was wrong.

Suddenly, a Japanese man switched to perfect English mid-sentence. Anne pushed Stop on her Walkman and listened closely. One by one, conversations became English. Even the Québecois couple in a nearby bench sounded English to Anne, and she was fluent in French!

Anne’s jaw was on the floor. She backed into a payphone and recovered from the shock. “What’s going on?” Anne said aloud. She noticed a large man in heavy coat in the booth next to her. “Weird,” she thought. “It’s a bit hot for a trench coat.” She grabbed a passing kid about her age and asked, “What’s he saying?”, pointing to the man.

Illustration by Sarah.

Illustration by Sarah.

The kid listened for a moment. “All I understood was, nyet. Must be a Russian.”

“Or a spy,” thought Anne! She let the kid go and listened closely.

"...fools, they suspect nothing. Yes, everything is ready for the invasion. I'll rendezvous with the package at 21h00."

With that, the man pulled down his hat, slammed the handset down and turned on his heel. The towers of Notre-Dame shone bright red in the setting sun as he headed into the crowded square, and Anne followed close behind.

Anne tailed the man, whom she suspected was a Soviet spy, down side streets and through alleyways. Once, he stopped suddenly and Anne threw herself into a dumpster to avoid detection. She managed to stay hidden, though. Now Anne looked up at the skeletal silos that stood, abandoned, on the riverfront.

She put her Walkman away and pulled an old walkie-talkie our her bag. The battery cover was taped to the back but it worked, and she needed it now.

Click-Hiss “Cyber-Suzie, do you copy? This is Atomic -Anne, over.”

The radio crackled in reply: “I copy, Atomic-Anne. Go ahead, over.”

“I need you to record this,” Anne said. “And stay on the line. Over.”

“Copy that. Cyber-Suzie standing by.”

Anne climbed through a broken window and made her way slowly along a rickety walkway. She could see the spy below, in the shadows, but now there was another voice. Anne couldn’t see the second speaker but she kept the radio channel open.

Illustration by Sarah.

Illustration by Sarah.

“You’ve done well, Ivan. Yuri would be proud of what we will accomplish tonight.” Again, this voice sounded like perfect English to Anne.

“Did you get that, Suzie?” Anne whispered.

“Anne, are you messing with me?” Suzie’s voice cracked. “That sound, it’s not human!” Hiss-Click

Anne dropped the radio with a clang on the walkway.

“Anne? Anne do you copy?”

Anne looked at the creature that rose up before her, all eyes and tentacles. She was speechless.

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