Fiction: Ice Words, Fire Fonts, and Other Scripts Unwritten by Human Hands, An Introduction

An essay by Dr. T. van E. Tengbergen, as provided by Tais Teng
Art by Leigh Legler


From the Institute for Nonsapient Linguistics:

Fire fonts are most often discovered in burned roof beams: traceries in slightly shinier carbon. Messages range from: “She certainly looked beautiful, but she didn’t want to die alone” to “Never smoke in bed. It might be your last cigarette.”

Fire fighters, who have fought a particular blaze in vain, often can read those messages, but they seldom mention them to their spouses.

Frozen words, their complements, are written in spiky frost flowers on windows, creeping across the glass in the middle of the night.

They predict the future. “You’ll be found in the arms of your lover, your lips frozen together in a last kiss,” is a common one.

Reading such a message in the morning doesn’t help you to avoid your fate. That future is invariably fixed, and not leaving your house during the blizzard isn’t an option.

The storm will first peel the panes of your roof away and then take the roof itself. Or your sleeping room will fill with smoke the moment you finish reading, making you and your significant other gasp for breath.

Art for "Ice Words, Fire Fonts, and Other Scripts Unwritten by Human Hands, An Introduction"

Fire fonts are most often discovered in burned roof beams: traceries in slightly shinier carbon. Messages range from: “She certainly looked beautiful, but she didn’t want to die alone” to “Never smoke in bed. It might be your last cigarette.”


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2019 collection.


Dr. T. van E. Tengbergen PHD studied biochemistry and advanced xenolinguistics at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of Listening to the Wind and Beyond Bee and Ant Dialects, a Survey. He is married, with six children, a dog, and a dozen ant farms.


Tais Teng studied biology before he became a full-time writer and illustrator. He is coauthor of a scientific paper about blood-sucking mites and wrote more than a hundred rather less scientific novels afterwards.


Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.


“Ice Words, Fire Fonts, and Other Scripts Unwritten by Human Hands, An Introduction” is © 2019 Tais Teng
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Leigh Legler

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