May 27th, 2004

Mask

Guan-pen

There are six stones that separate the place on the floor where I sit, leaning against the wall, to where Guan-pen sits, wrapped in a damp towel.

I only know six words of Hangul, two of which I have forgotten the meaning of. I can say “hello”, “goodbye”, “wait”, and “hold still or face death”, which translated is actually one, very short word. Guan-pen is better versed in Standard than I am in Hangul, which doesn’t say much, but we were able to exchange names and niceties. Not that niceties matter much in a prison cell.

I fill the silence between us with my own inner narrative.

I imagine that Guan-pen is a merchant, a trader on a ferry between this war zone and Hangul, delivering electronics to whatever side can pay. I know very little about Hangul, excepting that their people are amphibians that specialize in personal electronics and that they are known for their underwater choruses, which they say makes the water bubble as if it was at a boil. Having nothing else to do I decide that he was a first mate, not the captain, because a captains Standard would have to be better. He has a family back on Hangul, a spawn of little Guan-pens who he provides for.

Provided for.

It's likely that we will die here.

I’ve decided that he is religious, caught religion on the trade route and now worships a god from another world. He was captured delivering personal electronics to one of the factions here on this god-forsaken world. Maybe someone got the bright idea that he might be worth a ransom; maybe they are already negotiating with his government to send him back.




I promise myself that if I live, and he does not, I will tell his family, his spawn, what happened. I will tell them how brave he was and how I gave him my ration of water to dump on his blanket so that his skin wouldn’t dry out. No matter what happens, I will say that he mentioned them, and that he was thinking of them. I would swear this to him, but he wouldn’t understand, so instead, I swear it to myself.

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