Forgotten Words – Part 1


Walter Smith had been watching the group intensely for nearly thirty five minutes. Despite the uncomfortable heat and humidity, not to mention the constant buzzing of pesky insects around him, he never broke his concentration or gaze from the group, which consisted of five adult males, seven adult females and eight children ranging from three years old to twelve years old. Everyone, including the children, was foraging for food when Walter stumbled upon them. Walter was anxious and on edge because he was alone. He didn’t know if the males were hostile towards outsiders, and there was no way he could protect himself against an attack. As a precaution, he positioned himself upwind. The conversation between the group members was short and filled with an occasional grunt. Walter had no idea what they were saying, but he didn’t care. He was extremely excited because he became the first person to hear this language in more than 200,000 years. 

An hour ago, Walter was running back and forth in his laboratory preparing his backpack for this long awaited trip, and now he was hidden behind a thick canopy listening to a language spoken by Homo neanderthalensis. This language was so ancient and archaic that there was no way to translate what the Neanderthals were saying to each other. He estimated that he was in a dense forest somewhere in an area that would eventually become modern-day Germany. Although he dressed comfortably, his sweating became more profuse, and his clothes stuck to his skin. It didn’t matter because he finally accomplished his goal.

Walter was never the best student, but he became very interested in language after taking several linguistics courses in college. He could never really wrap his head around Chomsky’s theories on transformational grammar, universal grammar or even generative grammar because the technical aspects never interested him, but somehow learning languages came easily to him. So much so that he spoke several fluently. Walter had always wondered to himself what the first language sounded like before the tower fell as the fairy tale goes. This thirst motivated Walter to spend most of his life, not to mention a vast amount of his family’s fortune, on developing the technology that would allow him to travel back in time and hear the first language ever spoken on Earth. After years and years of failures and mistakes, the day finally came when his patience and efforts paid off. Attached to each of his wrists and ankles were the time bracelets. These bracelets connected to each other to form a sub quantum space field around the user. It was this sub quantum space field that made time travel possible. 

Walter programmed the time bracelets to send himself 200,000 years into the past because he believed it was during this time when Neanderthals began speaking. Walter was not only interested in the linguistic implications, he was also interested in the social aspects of a Neanderthal’s nuclear family. He planned to collect as much data as possible from different time periods, then share the data with social scientists for their research. There was one shortcoming with the time bracelets though. Walter would have to return to his lab after two or three jumps in order to recharge the bracelets’ power supply, but the return trip would give him a chance to get fresh supplies and rest himself because the charging time averaged two days. There was also a fail safe. The bracelets only worked if all four were together. If one or more was missing, the remaining bracelets would not operate and were rendered useless.

Suddenly, there was what seemed like a terse conversation between two of the males, both of whom made wild gestures as they talked to each other. Finally, one of the males uttered something wildly to the other males. Each male grabbed spear-like projectiles, then followed the lead male deeper into the forest. Walter wavered momentarily. He had to decide if he was going to stay behind with the women and children, or risk movement and follow the males. With no time to waste, Walter made his decision. He put away his recording device, grabbed his backpack, then surreptitiously followed the males.

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