Friday, 9 September 2011

Two Hundred Words - A Puzzle

Of the two hundred words, handwritten on a scrap of red card in black and sans serif, he saw at once that only three were key. The edges of the card were torn but the block of text appeared complete. The first clue was to be found in the first sentence.

He read it again. Out on the water he saw a boat approaching, the onshore breeze swelling a yellow sail. The second clue was buried in the text. He had to search for it.

As he sat contemplating the words, the boat drew up along the quay. He did not recognise the man who threw the rope, but he took it and tied it to the cleat on which he had been sitting. The boat looked foreign. He watched the sailor busy himself with the mast, then went back to the text.

The final clue was the most difficult. He read the piece again but couldn’t see it. He said the words to himself, mumbling them like a prayer, but he could not hear the one he sought.

A shadow appeared across the writing. He looked up. The sailor stood over him.

“Who are you?” he asked, in French.


Thursday, 1 September 2011

The list of words not to be used ...

The list of words not to be used was put up on the door of the library. They had been written in alphabetical order. At first in groups, then one by one, the people approached them, read them, considered them. The following weeks saw a rash of haste as texts were consulted, words obliterated, and certain books burnt.

The list of words not to be used soon became the only existent example of those words. The people pretended to ignore it. From time to time, certain of them went by close enough to catch sight of one or two of the words. Certain of them committed the words to memory.

The list of words not to be used vanished about three months after it had appeared. Everyone noticed. There were rumours. Some said it had been removed by order, others that it had been stolen.

When enough time had passed, no one remembered how many words had been on the list. Memories faltered, secret arguments developed and opposing groups were formed. Centuries saw the list of words not to be used transformed into legend, millennia to myth. Historians speculate. Linguists propose. Writers imagine. The list of words not to be used illudes all attempts to be recreated.