“I have a new insight about all of this but it may convince you I’ve lost my mind. Please hear me out before you call for a butterfly net!”; The doctor joked. “I believe we are no longer talking to each other in English! As a matter of fact, I have no idea what language we are actually speaking at the moment.”
“What? What in the world do you mean, Eric?”
“I’m saying that as crazy as it may sound, I’m convinced that we are actually talking in an unknown language; and yet it is perfectly understandable to our ears. If my hypothesis is right, all the reports of linguistic confusion are technically incorrect. I’m certain that I didn’t speak to my patients today in Chinese or Polish, and they definitely didn’t speak to me in English. Yet we understood each other. That’s no coincidence. I can’t explain it yet, but we must really be speaking in some sort of universal language, while ‘hearing’ our native tongue in our minds.”; The doctor explained excitedly.
The silence on the other end of the receiver was no surprise. He fully expected it and waited for the words to sink in before continuing. “I believe the reason for the worldwide cases of facial fatigue is because we are subconsciously speaking this new language. Any speech therapist will tell you that it takes time to train facial muscles to properly form the words of a new dialect. Even with absolute linguistic immersion, it takes physical training of the tongue and throat to master pronunciations and accents properly.”
“That does make sense.”; the CDC scientist cautiously agreed.
“It is my theory that the human race has yet to master this mysterious, universal language. With time and practice, I’m certain that the soreness being experienced will go away. Eventually our ability to speak it naturally will catch up with our understanding of what is going on. From there everything will fall into place, and maybe we can tackle WHY this strange phenomenon is happening.”
“This could explain why all the audio recordings are garbled!”; His friend enthused.
“Right, I was about to get to that. If what I think is true, they aren’t really ‘garbled’ at all. We are just no longer able to understand the original languages that the recordings were spoken in.”; Eric agreed. “If we all suffered the same linguistic aphasia across the planet, it wouldn’t be obvious that anything was different because everyone else had it too.”
“But, what.. does.. it… mean? How, did.. it happen? This is.. absolutely unprecedented and unparalleled in history!”
“Not exactly!”; Doctor Barnes offered slyly. “Remember the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel? This is essentially the same thing but in reverse. I’m not much of a believer myself but the story does seem to corroborate or parallel what is happening now. Maybe there is a scientific or medical explanation for that ancient story, AND this!”
“Look at those strange medical cases of patients who lost their ability to understand their mother tongue and started speaking a new language. In some instances they even picked up a foreign accent that they couldn’t stop using. It’s very much the same type thing but on a global scale! Besides you and I, the rest of humanity is unaware of this incredible turn of events.”
Eric’s friend shared Dr. Barnes’ building enthusiasm but cautioned that without scientific verification his theory wouldn’t be accepted. They had to devise some means of proving it. He had done a thorough job of explaining the worldwide anomalies but they had a long road ahead of them to convince the scientific community.
One factor in their favor was that if Eric’s fantastic theory was correct, they could call anyone on Earth and communicate perfectly with them despite normal language barriers. They knew evidence like that would help considerably but it wouldn’t be enough to convince the authorities on its own. Dr. Barnes’ friend breathed a sigh of dread at the thought of the initial skepticism he would encounter. Regardless of the obstacles, he vowed to relay Eric’s credible hypothesis to his superiors at the CDC.
“Good luck my friend! You’re going to need it.”
At 5 AM the next morning, an insistent knock at the door jarred Dr. Barnes and his family awake. He haphazardly threw on a robe and ran downstairs to find out who it was. Two very large men with military credentials and convincing weapons were waiting on the porch. They firmly asked him to come with them immediately to testify before an official military panel. They didn’t offer to explain anything further and he didn’t dare ask. Instead he requested to go back upstairs to change into more suitable attire. After conferring briefly, the MP’s nodded politely and said they would be waiting.
His wife and children overheard the uncomfortable exchange and bombarded him with questions while he dressed for the unexpected meeting.
“Where are they taking you?”; His wife demanded.
“You know as much as I do.”; He remarked with exasperation. “But I’m sure it’s related to the theories I discussed with Horace last night. Just call my office and let them know I will not be in today, and to not take in any patients.”
The MP’s drove him to a nearby air force base where he boarded a helicopter for an undisclosed destination. They were still flying when the sun rose an hour later. The pilot and security detail maintained complete silence except when communicating with the air traffic controllers at central command. Once the flight reached its destination, he was escorted to a waiting room where he sat by himself. He was warned for security reasons to not to use his cell phone to call anyone.
After an extended period of time, one of the security officers stepped in the room and offered to get him breakfast. He specified what he wanted and the officer left again. Dr. Barnes sat at the large conference table and tapping his fingertips absently on the surface. He began to wonder if the official reason he had been summoned would be disclosed any time soon. Finally his breakfast arrived and he was impressed at how well it was prepared. It was a far cry from the ‘mess hall’ meals he had heard so much about from his peers who had been in the military. Half way through eating his breakfast, the door opened and a heavily decorated officer came into the room and sat down across from him.
“Good morning Dr. Barnes. I’m General Westcott, military adviser to the President. The reason why you were summoned here is that your colleague Dr. Horace Benton informed his superiors at the CDC about your interesting theories about the recent global events. We wanted to touch base with you personally to make sure we understand what you have put forth, and determine if you are correct in your assumptions. For National security reasons, we have to figure out what the hell is going on and if it is a danger to the American people. Obviously we also have to determine if this ‘linguistic aphasia’ as you have dubbed it; is a natural phenomena, or if foreign powers are at work to destabilize the region and cause mass panic.”
Several times Dr. Barnes opened his mouth to clarify certain statements but decided it was wise to let the General finish the briefing first. After he finished explaining the military’s objectives, he asked Eric to ‘begin from the beginning’ and bring him up to speed. Eric was a bit surprised that the CDC didn’t already do that. He was certain that far greater minds than his own were already hard at work trying to verify his bare bones proposal. It all seemed so unnecessary to disrupt his life and fly him there when the CDC should have already ‘taken the ball and ran with it’. He fully expected significant advancement to be made in the hours since he and Horace had last spoken.
As if reading his thoughts, the General chimed in. “I realize you only proposed your theory to the CDC to give them a fresh perspective on the whole thing. Of course they have already briefed me but we don’t like to paraphrase or play ‘postman’ at the Pentagon. We wanted to talk directly to the source since it was you who had the idea. It’s hardly like you are a layman, yourself. I understand you gave up a promising career in pure research to open a private family practice near your hometown. Did you do that to be near your parents in their Autumn years?”; He Inquired.
“Yes sir. My Father had stage four cancer when I was offered the position at the CDC but my Mother needed me. He was her ‘rock’ and after he died, she depended on me to be nearby. I couldn’t uproot her from her life and move her down to Atlanta; so I decided to ‘act locally’ and open a walk-in clinic in Manhattan. That way I could help those close to home and be here for my Mother too.”
“That’s very admirable. I respect that. Now, please detail your observations to me and the research you have conducted. I have a whole team of analysts who are going to process what you tell me and decide the implications of this ‘aphasia’ to the American people.”
After Eric explained the thought processes behind his ideas, the General could only marvel at his sound, impressive logic and the possible implications.
“Do you realize the entire translation industry is out of a job!”: The General chuckled. “It also means we can’t make offhand remarks in front of foreign diplomats anymore. If this is a permanent affliction, linguistic and cultural misunderstandings may become a thing of the past! Who knows? I might be out of a job soon too!”
Dr. Barnes nodded in agreement before correcting a minor quibble in the General’s statement. “I’m not sure I’d label those very positive things to be an affliction, General. Perhaps it is some sort of mass-evolutionary advancement in mankind. Figuring out what triggered it on a global scale will be very interesting! Experts in brain biology, genetics, virology, disease migration, and linguistics will have their hands full with such a massive undertaking.”
“That’s where you come in, Dr. Barnes! We’d like you to head-up our research team. We have a facility with cutting edge equipment and modern amenities very near your home.”
Eric smiled and threw up his hands in protest. “I have a private practice to support; and it has been years since I have been involved in serious research. There are plenty of far greater qualified men than myself who….”
“None of those ‘greater qualified’ men figured this thing out, Dr. Barnes. You did! We can refer a highly skilled G.P. to fill in for you at your medical clinic while you tackle this thing. Don’t forget, we can put the full weight of the US Government behind you to get to the bottom of this. Think of it as a ‘research sabbatical’ with a hefty paycheck and ‘dream team’ staff. Come on! What do you say?”
Eric grinned at the notion that bizarre observations he made at his small Manhattan walk-in clinic lead to a research position with the Pentagon. Considering the might and influence of ‘Uncle Sam’, he wasn’t even sure he ‘could’ say ‘no’ to them. “Ok, I’ll accept the research project you are offering and will do my best to uncover the source of this monumental change; under a couple conditions. One: I can only commit to the responsibility for a limited time, or until I feel I have exhausted my ideas and usefulness. Two: I want Horace Benton as my chief assistant.”
The General stood and shook hands with Eric. “Looks like your eggs have gotten cold.”; He observed. “Want me to have the Sergeant to heat them up for you?”
End of part 2