1: Alternative Facts: Lost Words

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive …
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ozymandias”

I was just trying to find a word.

It’s for a narrative I’m programming taking place in an earlier part of the Pre-Interregnum Period. To be honest, this isn’t part of my profession. Even now, it’s still a vanity project that my mainline studies at the Freed Dome Collective assists with from time to time. It’s been over a thousand years since the Interregnum that ultimately made this Cycle of the Repolitik of Amarak, and the Interface still isn’t fully updated from the stratification, fragmentation, and Shutdown of its predecessor.

There are clues, however. I’m no scholar, reconstructing the works of our past, but a student taking advantage of the bits and pieces that I come across surveying the immensity of the growing Interface. As I said, the scenario I’m attempting to memetically graft and reconstruct happened long ago in our State’s historia.

It isn’t much, I’m afraid. Just a game of random chance: a re-image of a group playing cards at a saloon right before the First Great Disunity. I’m still trying to figure out how their game works, but I have the basics down. Eventually, one of them wins with a particular card used at a certain time. It had a name.

The Interface didn’t know it. I called up all Pre-Interregnum lexicons. I had a basic prompt. I was looking for one word like “winning” or “victory.” Something like a “winning hand” or “winning card,” even “higher piece.” I thought the Interface wasn’t approxing right searching the lexicons. Then I saw it. The lexicons weren’t all fragments. Some of them had other words.

But they were blanked out.

It recalled something a teacher told us. I visualized the right historia tab and its Record, something I marked for later. Amarak hasn’t always been this peaceful. It’s hard to see it when you look at the Freed Dome and its Collective: whole circular layers of self-sustaining greenhouse biomes for students, scholars, and travelers. In fact, it hasn’t always been one State either. It used to be several, sometimes against each other. Different States and scattered Cycles, especially during the Interregnum. A Dark Age.

I knew this already, as much as anyone. But I recalled the lecture about, of all things, pennies. They are just as important as terminologies behind playing cards, which is to say not at all. According to our teacher, before the beginning of this Cycle and the founding of the Three-Faction System, certain nouns, verbs, and adjectives were marked as something called “Hate Speech Designates,” made during the Hate Speech Accords. They were banned from the lexicons. Our teacher actually called them “Lost Words.”

But then I recalled that before the Reconstruct Period, and even now, there are still people that transmit information orally: through verbal exchanges and stories. The Recorders would know, of which my teacher was one. The extract I pulled up talked about an older plural form word for pennies, a minor form of copper currency that has another context in surviving pockets of Repos. It’s odd, given how it was once used in older literary texts. I wondered if this was somehow linked to the word I was looking for.

I looked some more … and I found it.

It’s a strange word. I was close. And it is definitely a Hate Speech Accord Designate. As to why …

It’s linked to the Repos, again. I didn’t know why. They’ve always been on the fringes of Amarak I can recall, still believing in outdated concepts of “race” and “pure-born” statuses. Little more than a sub-cult of hate. But our teacher believed they didn’t make these words themselves. They got them from somewhere else, but they gradually gained different meanings in new environs, becoming linked to this group.

And it just became one mnemonic chain after another. It turns out the word — this short, blunt, brutal word — came to real prominence during what was the end of Amarak’s Forty-Fourth Precedent. According to scattered accounts, before the Disunity Amarak was suffering from a loss of material distribution, and inequality. Apparently, the Repos had been a legitimate politic-faction then along with the pre-Demos. They even had Precedents of their own, which is utterly amazing to me. But the extracts say at the end of CE, they fed too much into the tension in the State while the pre-Demos were too divided. Their last Precedent, the Forty-Fourth, attempted Reform. But then the Disunity happened, and the Interregnum. I wanted to see if there was a Precedent after the Forty-Fourth.

But according to the Records, there was no Precedent. Only the Interregnum: with accounts of escalating atrocities, and finally the Reunity in thanks to an alliance between the Demos, the Workers Faction, and the Independence Party. It’s believed, according to some accounts on the Interface, that surviving “moderate Repos” of that time — surely a contradiction in terms — either joined the Demos, formed the Workers, or even the Independents.

Yet by this point, more focus was on the establishment of the popular vote system, replacing one of representatives, than on the past, except for an interesting anecdote about Freed Dome itself. It was created and renamed during the early days of Reunity. It was also apparently built on the site of a property that belonged to another dynasty: their name also stricken, and then lost to time. It was dedicated to the loss of life and dignity experienced by Affirmation Groups: minorities, special needs, resident visitors, and the dispossessed. You can see it in the gardens here that many survivors, and their descendants built. It was seized and re-purposed by the Amarak Repolitik as a living memorial, and the first biome of its kind: to house and give purpose to those in need.

But right. Back to the word. I’m not sure that I’m going to use it. To be honest, I just can’t understand the context where it would work. For example, just how can you love someone’s hate?

Still, this whole search for Lost Words gives me inspiration for my narrative. At the end of the card game, I’m just going to have the dealer win. It won’t be about skill, or chance, or even luck. The game is rigged. “House always wins,” is what they used to say. Especially a broken one. But I got to learn, again, that Freed Dome really is a beautiful home, more than I even thought possible. It comes from an older word too and, honestly, when I look into my own mindscape I realize now more than ever that I’d rather be free than triumphant any day.

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2017