*N.B.: there are curses in here. Nothing too bad. On a scale of nun to drunken sailor, it's somewhere near a person stubbing their toe on a chair. But still.
This is a thing that happened. When I slept.
Somehow or another, I had travelled into the future. Let's not think too much about the hows or whys. I hadn't travelled that far; only about 500 years or so. For everyone who's thinking 'well, that's pretty far if you ask me', I'd have to agree with you. But geologically, big-picture speaking, it's not really that far.
I mean, it's definitely far enough, cause I couldn't understand what the hell they were saying.
Think about five hundred years ago. Five hundred years ago was the sixteenth century. Shakespeare. Bubonic Plague. Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Everyone who's been in a high school English class knows that people in the sixteenth century spoke differently than we do now. You might hate Shakespeare and everything he's ever done, or you might have a poster of him on your ceiling, but the fact remains that if someone came up to you and started a conversation in perfect sixteenth century English, you'd probably need a pocket dictionary. And then you'd ask them to slow down.
Anyway, back to the dream.
I was in a public market-type situation, with vendors selling things I recognized (vegetables) and things I didn't (beepy metal things). All around me, people were talking, going about their business. I couldn't understand a word. It was an incredibly alienating experience, even if it was just in a dream.
I went up to one of the vendors, and began asking him/her if they spoke English, and if so, what was everyone else speaking. S/He reacted like I was a crazy person, and in all honesty, I probably seemed like one. Maybe I was. Ok, yes. Yes, I am. But that's not the point. The point is what happens next.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me in halting, strangely-accented English if I was lost. I immediately began asking him where this was, what is with all these people, why does that dude have a second head, etc. His eyes glazed over in that exact way that suggested that he had no idea what I was saying. I mean, he made a valiant effort at keeping up, but hey, he wasn't fluent. I stopped talking, and apologized, which he understood.
He then asked me if I was a time traveller. I said yes. I asked him if he was a time traveller. He said that no, he was a linguistics professor at the local university, and that he had an interest in the history of the English language. He said it strangely, like it was a sentence he had memorized long ago.
I am a total and complete language nerd. I love dead languages, I love living languages, and most of all I love how they work. A lot. So when this guy came up to me out of nowhere and told me he's interested in the history of the English language, what he doesn't realize is that he's my new best friend.
I can tell that he sees the gleam in my eyes, and smiles at my (probably) obvious enthusiasm. He asks what time I am specifically from, and I tell him that I am from 2014.
This is apparently good news to him, because he starts beaming and shaking my hand and babbling in futurese. He's in the beginning stages of a full nerd meltdown, and now I know that I'm his new best friend.
Apparently the university's not far from the market; it's a short walk and I have nothing else to do, so I follow him. He leads me to what appears to be a museum, though we bypass the exhibits for the offices in the basement.
Inside the offices are more professor-y type people. He introduces me to the nearest person, who surveys me up and down with a suspiciously cocked eyebrow. She says something to me, and I shrug and tell her that I have no idea what she's saying. She points to my pocket. Apparently I have pockets. I look up at her, nonplussed, and she points again. She wants what's in my pocket. I reach in, and pull out my iPhone. Ok. That makes sense.
The iPhone apparently satisfies her curiosity, because she hands it back to me. She then tells my best friend something, and he translates for me. She wants to know if I would answer a few questions about the past. I agree, because I really don't see the harm. She then tells me that she is a professor of literature. I don't really know what to do with this information, so I file it away for future use. She continues to talk.
Evidently, a lot of the information of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century was lost in some event. I briefly contemplate asking more, but really, I don't want to know. I mean, I do, but I won't let myself find out. She then says that the most information that was lost had to do with cultural information. Essentially, they know the history in some form, have some idea of the state of politics and research of the time, but have no idea about popular culture. Which frankly boggles the mind. In my mind, the two are intimately connected.
She then goes on to tell me that they have an unfinished document; a scrap of paper with half a story written on it. They know that the cultural impact of the story was huge at the time, and that there is no way I would be unaware of its existence. They call it 'The Ballad of the Prince', and they'd really appreciate it if I would tell them the rest of it. They want to know how it ends.
I have no clue what she's talking about. I tell her that. She insists that I do. I tell her that I don't. She disagrees.
I ask to see the ballad. I'm thinking it's a bit of a Harry Potter novel, and anticipate the look on her face when I tell her that this is one page from a seven part book series. She says that there is no way I can see it in person, which annoys me greatly, but that she has the ballad memorized and would be willing to recite it for me.
I tell her that I'll do my best, but seriously, I'm doubting myself. I've never heard of this ballad. And then she begins:
"In the westernmost part of the Philadelphia I was born and raised;
on the play-grounds were where I spent the most of mine days.
I was chilling out, maximizing out, relaxing all cold
shooting some b-balls on the outside of the school-"
And then I woke up.