Bernadette Hall

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Millennia of silence and no rain

It’s in Antarctica, it’s in the lovely Chapel of the Snows. Outside there’s Roll Cage
Mary braced against the katabatic winds that swing down from Hell’s mountain.
Outside are the glamorous ice meadows. Inside there’s a young woman wandering
around in her socks. I spend a long time looking at her looking a long time at the
stained glass window behind the altar: the adèlie penguin, the wheat, the host, the
wine cup. So, we’re both curious. It turns out she’s Korean, a science technician
with poor English. She works with weather balloons, translating the news from the
galaxy. I’m wondering if she writes it in Korean but maybe it’s just numbers. I tell
her I used to be a Latin teacher. I have this she says and she hands me a piece of
paper. The writing on it is very very small and I haven’t got my glasses with me so
I ask her to spell out the words and I write them down in big crude letters on a
page I’ve torn from my notebook VOCO TERMINIUM TUM ERIT. She smiles when I
translate it I call it the end and then it will truly be the end.She wants to know if
the Latin is correct. So then I have this weird thought that she hasn’t just copied it
out, she’s actually made it up. I remove the second ‘i’ from terminium, now it’s
correct. Here I am at the end of the world giving a Latin lesson to a young Korean
who’s got very poor English and all the time I’m getting more and more anxious,
frantic in fact. What if it’s a suicide note, what if I’m meant to be doing something?

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