Krsi or Toki?

11 Dec

Nunni could not have foreseen the hazards of running away from home.

The planet Ptox was the worst place in the belt for such an adventure for a twelve-year old. A violent father and a neurotic mother drove him out of their unfriendly home. Nuni saw no alternative to the open road, wherever it might lead. And it took him into the dangers of the Toki zone.

Ptox was less than a medium-sized body, but it had been settled centuries before by two ethnic groups with distinctly separate cultures and languages. A pair of peoples as different as the Krsi and the Toki would be hard to discover. Nuni’s parents belonged to the rural, submissive Krsi. He had learned their fear and hatred of the urban, sophisticated Toki. Only a few words of the Toki tongue had the boy ever heard. He could not have anticipated the dangers of being a monolingual fugitive.

Nunni avoided crowded places along the back roads he followed. His money was very limited, only what he had stowed away for the last month in his bedroom at home. He dared not go into a restaurant or food market. His stomach sent signals to his brain demanding that he find something to eat and digest. The safety of buying at a roadside farmer’s stall seemed best to him. Nunni approached a gray-haired granny standing behind an open-air counter.

“Good evening, son. Isn’t it late for you to be out on this country road? I haven’t seen you before. You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No. I’m only passing by.”

Nunni looked over the vegetables on display on the counter table.

“Can I help you, my boy?” she asked him.

He took out of his pocket two of his last remaining coins.

“Give me a few of those purple vegetables bulbs, please,” he softly said.

The old farmer’s wife scooped them up with giant tongs and dropped them into a celluloid bag. She took the money and handed the food over to the hungry youth.

“I’d be careful, son. Don’t go too far into the suburbs. You know who lives there?”

“The Toki.”

“Have you ever encountered any of them?”

“No.”

“Then stay away from contact with them. Do you know anything of their language?”

“No. I tuned in their videon channel once and couldn’t make out a single word. Nothing was understandable at all.”

“Then you are like me and my husband. We know only Krsi, and our children also learned nothing but our Krsi tongue. Your parents were right to keep the Toki jargon our of your mind.”

Mention of his family brought a frown to the face of Nunni. He picked up his vegetables, turned around, and began walking along the side of the narrow country road.

Dusk was short and fast in this zone of Ptox.

Nunni had no idea where he was. It might be in the country or it might be in the outskirts of the suburbs. All he knew was that it was turning black on all sides. Only the light of the stars and the reflected brightness on the faces of planetoids lit the sky. The surface of Ptox seemed darker than the sky in this area unknown to him.

All at once the boy sensed a rustle behind him. He broke into a trot. Yes, he was right, someone was following him. No, more than one single person. Turning his head around, Nunni caught the shadows of a group gaining up on him from left and right.

The harder he ran, the more his breath escaped the grasp of his lungs. Each step grew heavier. Something like a rock hit him from behind. His feet stumbled. As Nunni fell onto the side of the road, he turned over and caught sight of the grinning faces of his attackers. They were young faces. Faces like his own. He heard only two words. They were unfamiliar words. Enough to identify his assailants as Toki. Then the mind of the runaway seemed to burn out.

“Then you think that you could love and raise this boy as your own, despite his origins?” asked the lawyer.

The childless pair sat in his downtown office, high above the city.

It was the husband who spoke first. “Yes. We can make him a Toki. He will come to accept his new identity in time. Our son will forget all about his Krsi origins. Those days will be thoroughly erased.”

“That’s right,” continued the wife. “We have consulted with physicians and surgeons. Already we know that the boy escaped from a terribly traumatic family surrounding. He has been examined under hypnosis and the reasons for his running away from home explored. His childhood was disastrous. His new identity can transcend the misery in his past.”

“You are talking about a lexical transfer, I take it,” asserted the attorney.

“Yes,” replied the husband.

“I can get you a court order issued for such an operation. We can be confident of receiving it. The surgery will make the boy a Toki-speaking Tok. Do you have a good surgeon lined up to do it?”

“The best,” smiled the woman. “He developed lexical surgery here on Ptox and has won scores of prizes and awards in his field. This doctor also happens to be my brother. We both have total trust in him.”

“Is it all right to go in to have a talk with Vunni?” inquired the doctor of the nurse in charge of the patient.

“Yes. He woke up awhile ago. But isn’t the boy’s name Nunni?”

“He will, in time, become used to his Toki name. We are going to make him a Tok in everything. The time for the operation is fast approaching. Soon this youth will be one of us.”

“It is a good thing that you know the Krsi language, doctor. You’re the only one here who can converse with him.”

“That will soon be changed,” softly said the surgeon. He turned and entered the patient’s room.

“How do you feel today, Vunni?” began the physician in Krsi.

“My name is Nunni. Why don’t you call me by my right name?”

The doctor sat down on an iron chair next to the boy’s bed.

“That gang you encountered gave you a mean beating. The fall on the road pavement damaged your skull severely. A big operation will be necessary to repair your head bones.”

The boy looked defiantly into his face. “What will it be like for me after this operation?”

“You have had a troubled childhood, Vunni. That came out in my sessions with you. Your parents were both disturbed persons. Neither of them was normal. I can understand why you came to feel that you had to run away from them. Your life with them was a living hell for you.”

The boy moaned in pain. “That’s true. It was that way for me with them.”

“It was not at all a good life, but you have escaped from it now. And this operation will help to clear out that part of your past experience. I am going to enter your brain, Vunni.”

“You mean that this will make me think better?”

“Yes. Memories and bad ideas will no longer haunt you as they have up to now.”

“Then I want to have the operation, doctor.”

“Good, Vunni. Good.”

The boy’s new parents came to consult with the surgeon in his office.

“Sit down, Mr. and Mrs. Naku. How is your Vunni adjusting to his new home?”

The husband spoke.

“His skull is now healed. There is no trace of Krsi in his speech. His mastery of Toki is complete. But the boy is very sad. All the time, he is morose and unhappy.”

“He cannot tell you what is bothering him?” asked the suddenly troubled doctor.

The wife answered. “No. He will not or cannot tell us what it is.”

After a short pause, the surgeon began again.

“That is not unusual in these lexical transfers. We took a lot of brain cells out. The language processing matrices that I implanted into the brain of Vunni have completely replaced the structure of Krsi symbols and concepts with the patterns of Toki. At first, he was not conscious of this change to a different language in his mind. But there may be some traces left there that have no equivalent in our Toki language.

“In time, I hope that such mental relics from the past will be lost. There will just be no room for them in the new vocabulary of his mind. It will take a little time though, before those memories more or less die out.”

“Then it is true,” said the husband, “that a lexical transfer can bring about a change in personality.”

“It is somewhat unpredictable. Sometimes the operation does that. But other times it may not affect the traits of personality if they are deeply enough ingrained within a person’s mind.”

In two years time, he became the Vunni his doctor he had planned he would be. His parents provided him a warm, congenial home life. He lived in a world of Toki speech and thought. Krsi words and memories appeared to be gone from his mind. The operation turned out a success.

Vunni found new friends on his city block. He discovered that at the age of fourteen he had the size and strength to become the leader of his peers. He was soon the center of a gang on the streets of his area.

“What would you do if you came across a Krsi somewhere, Vunni?” asked one of his new pals from the neighborhood.

“I’d hold him on the ground and pound his head in with a rock,” he replied. “They are the vermin of Ptox. I’d stamp out any of them I met.”

The chance to prove himself came to Vunni in two days. It was his idea to explore the ring of suburbs. His gang of five comrades felt strong and bold as they roved through unfamiliar back roads.

Vunni caught sight of a strolling small figure. He pointed it out to his friends, then shouted at the younger boy.

“Who goes there? Who are you? Stop and answer me. Come over here, whoever you are.”

The face of a frightened little lad glared at them, then suddenly turned around and ran.

Vunni shouted to his cohorts. “After him! Don’t let him escape!”

The six ran down the empty street toward the fleeing person. Quickly they cornered the fugitive and threw him down on the hard pavement.

Vunni suddenly turned livid. “He’s a Krsi! A Krsi in our territory! Hold him down, hold him down!”

The leader seemed to explode into action. A large, sharp-angled rock lay handy. Vunni scooped it up with both hands and jumped upon the outsider that his gang had captured and pinned to the ground. A heavy weight came down on the Krsi skull. Again and again, the frenzied hands struck the head with the solid stone, until that weapon finally broke in two.

No one knew how many blows the victim received before Vunni looked up and around, almost foaming with emotion. He threw the head-crushing weapon aside into the uncut weeds on the side of the road.

Before running off, Vunni glanced into the bloody, smashed face of the Krsi. He then cried out in a wild roar. The others in his gang were frozen, witnessing an unforeseeable side of their chief.

Vunni broke away, running toward the city, yelling and wailing as if insane.

“What made him do it, doctor? What happened to the boy you operated on two years ago?” asked the police inspector.

“This is all inexplicable,” gulped the surgeon. “We have never had a case such as this one. Many Krsi patients have received a lexical transplant with Toki symbols and speech patterns.” The doctor fell silent.

“He ran all the way to his home after cracking the head of the Krsi intruder. Vunni killed the boy out of sheer hatred. But what made him then attack and cut up both his adoptive parents with a kitchen knife? They had no chance whatsoever. In his frenzy he made their neat little home a virtual slaughterhouse. What possessed the poor lad?” asked the police officer.

“We are trying to probe his mind. No one can say what it was in him that sparked the explosion. I can only guess. The lexical operation may not affect the deepest layers of a mind. If we knew why Vunni ran away from his Krsi home to begin with, perhaps we would understand what fires of hatred were burning inside him. His new language patterns did not seem to have remade that hidden part of his personality.”

“I guess maybe they didn’t, doctor” said the investigator with a sigh.

The surgeon grimaced. “Making him a Toki speaker only further confused the damaged runaway. He probably would have ended up a criminal killer sooner or later, whether he was Krsi or Toki.”

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