By Any Other Name

Ayesha Ahemd was one of 26 people from Earth who could speak Yevish. The Yevs were the first intelligent species humans had met while exploring other solar systems, and translating their difficult language was a very sought after skill. 19 of the 26 people who could speak Yevish fluently were working for diplomats and scientists on the Yev’s home planet. Ayesha had wanted to go to their planet while she had been in school. It was supposed to be very nice this time of year; a ten month-long spring that anyone who had experienced didn’t seem to ever stop talking about. But there was no call for any new parties to meet with the Yevs on their planet and Ayesha had needed a source of income once she graduated.

She had taken a job translating Yevish literature that had been donated to Earth as part of a cultural exchange. The pay was good, but the work dull. Ayesha didn’t read much fiction, and without having experienced Yevish culture outside of academic essays, she didn’t quite grasp why such titles as The Spiral That Ended and For These Armies I Shall Feed were considered to be of any real value. It wasn’t until her third week of 9 hour days scrolling through digitized Yevish archives that she found something interesting.

The story was marked as Pennaic and Livas, and was credited to a Yevish writer name Everence. As Ayesha started the translation, she got a strange feeling of déjà vu. After she had finished the first few pages, she called the Yevish embassy in Tokyo to confirm that these documents matched the original text. When she got her confirmation, she called a friend.

“Hello?” Professor McKay answered on the other end.

“Professor,” Ayesha said in a friendly and somewhat apologetic way. “I haven’t woken you have I?”

“It’s 3 A.M.,” McKay said laughing, “Prime time for us translators. What can I help you with?”

“I’m working in New York,” said Ayesha “working on some Yevish stories and I was wondering if you could check a translation for me.”

“Sure, sure.” said the Professor. “Send it my way.”

Ayesha forwarded the files to Professor McKay. She could hear him on the other end opening and reading the text in Yevish. After a few moments, he stopped.

“Are you playing a joke on your old teacher?” asked McKay.

“No,” said Ayesha, “and I’ve checked that this is the original text with the embassy. I take it you’ve gotten the same translation that I have.”

There was a pause on the other end of the line. Then, Professor McKay spoke.

“Two households/Both alike in dignity/in fair Pennata/where we lay our scene/From ancient grudge break to new mutiny/where civil blood makes civil hands unclean/From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.”

“It goes on like that,” Ayesha said. “The names and places are Yevish, but it’s word for word otherwise.”

“Shakespeare.” said McKay in awe.

Ayesha spent the next week translating everything that was credited to Everence, and it was all there. Names were changed, but the stories remained the same. Pennaic wanted his pound of flesh. The Lady Rasouin convinced her husband to kill the king after being told of a prophecy that robbed her children of the throne. Tavoris is haunted by his father’s ghost and seeks revenge against his uncle. Every work was present and accounted for. Some of the most celebrated works of Yevish literature were identical to those of William Shakespeare.

Ayesha would go on to publish a book, The Shakespeare Phenomenon, and have a very successful career as an author and linguist. “The Phenomenon” was taken by some to be concrete proof of a god who had created both Humans and Yevs. Others said it was proof that the works were so universally profound that it had simply occurred to separate authors of different species to write them.

Whatever the explanation, everyone agreed that the connection had helped strengthen the alliance between Humans and Yevs. Such a unique similarity was surely proof that these two species were meant to help each other and thrive.

Though, some 300 years after Ayesha’s conversation with Professor McKay, the connection was proven not as unique as previously thought. It was then that an Earth ambassador, attending a celebration put on by a newly met aquatic species known as the Pevnack, realized he was watching a Pevnackian theatre troupe putting on a production of what was unmistakably The Taming of the Shrew. Asking his interpreter what this play was, he was told it was a classic by the great Pevnackian playwright Unilick of the Shore. It wasn’t long before all of Unilick of the Shore’s plays were translated and discovered to be Pevnackian versions of Shakespeare’s work. This sent waves of intrigue over all three planets, and a new drive to search how far reaching these works truly were began.

It never missed. No matter what the species, anyone who had language had Shakespeare. He was found in peaceful art driven societies. He was found in conquering empires. He was found in the ruins of species that had long ago been wiped out due to nature, war, or unknown causes. They were gone, but he was there. He became a reason to explore. His words drove species to engage each other on peaceful terms just to find him again. It gave every intelligent life a commonality. 

Wherever he was he always changed species. He always changed his characters and settings to fit the planet, but the plays were all the same. No matter how far we expanded out over the centuries, no matter how much our DNA began to change with the introduction of new compatible lovers, no matter how much more than human we became, we always found Shakespeare waiting for us.

Then one day, long after the last generation of humans had left Earth for good, we found something else.

It happened during a meeting with a species called Newyongs. They were a young species. They didn’t even know there was life on other planets before we came. But they were civil enough, and humans along with their allies in the Intergalactic Coalition felt that they had great potential. If nothing else, it would be interesting to look through their literature to find Shakespeare again.

“It may seem strange,” the human ambassador was explaining to a Newyong prince through an invisible cloud of nanobots that translated their speech automatically, “but part of joining the I.C is an exchange of literature. We have certain stories that appear between all species that have joined and we would like to find if you have any that are similar.”

The prince did find this odd, but was determined to get his species involved such an advanced organization.

“I am quite well read.” said the prince to the ambassador “If you could describe some of these stories to me I would be willing to see if I recognize any of them.”

The ambassador smiled and began to summarize some of the works. He was about half way through a summary of Henry VIII when the prince spoke up.

“This sounds exactly like a work by Remeile,” said the prince, “a very popular writer here.”

The ambassador was thrilled. There were times finding Shakespeare in an alien civilization took years of investigation. Having them reviled this easily was a rare event.

“If it is alright with you,” the ambassador said, “I will have someone from the I.C. collect copies of Remeile’s work.”

“Certainly,” said the prince. “If you like, I can get you tickets to his newest play. It is premiering in about a month.”

The ambassador looked at the prince with a look of confusion. “What do you mean his new play is premiering in a month?”

“Well,” said the Prince, “It is scheduled to open in a month, though sometimes he is very temperamental when it comes to his deadlines. Still, I’m sure if he was told that it was for the Intergalactic Collective he would work very hard to finish it on time.”

“You mean he’s here?!” the ambassador asked, losing his composure. “Remeile is alive!”

“Yes.” said the prince, not quite sure why the ambassador was so excited.

“I must meet with him!” the ambassador said.

The prince called for a transport and they were soon racing through the capital into the theatre district. They arrived outside a large venue where the prince said Remeile rented an apartment on the top floor. The prince and the ambassador went inside and climbed to the stairs. The was prince barely able to keep up with the ambassador’s hurried pace.

When they knocked on the apartment door, a small Newyong answered. When he saw the prince and a human standing in the doorway, he bowed swiftly.

“It is okay,” said the prince, “You are Remeile’s son correct?”

The small boy nodded his head as he slowly raised himself from the bow.

“This man,” the prince said, signifying the ambassador, “would like to speak to your father.”

The young boy nodded and led the way through the living room to a closed door. The boy pointed nervously at it and the prince dismissed him. The ambassador stood still for a moment, then knocked on the door.

“Come in.” a voice said on the other side. The ambassador looked to the prince, who invited the ambassador to go in without him. The ambassador opened the door and stepped in.

He saw a Newyong sitting at a large desk writing furiously. Besides the look of intense concentration on his face, he didn’t look much different from any other Newyong that he had seen. Still, there was something. A strange feeling like the ambassador had that was akin to standing on a the edge of a large cliff.

“Remeile?” the ambassador asked timidly.

“Yes?” the playwright said, not looking up from his work.

“Mr. Shakespeare?” the ambassador asked.

The playwright stopped writing and a look of pondering came across his face. He looked up from his work and smiled.

“A human?” he said as if impressed. “Have you people made it all the way out here?”

The ambassador didn’t know what to say. He stood stunned at the idea that he may be facing a incarnation of one of the most important figures in the galaxy. The works that connected all languages to one another, the words that resonated through galaxies, and the ambassador may be standing in a room with their source. He was struck mute with the prospect.

“What was it you called me?” Remeile asked, standing up from his desk and stretching his limbs. “Shakespeare? Did I go by that on Earth?”

The playwright thought a moment, and then a look of epiphany came over his face.

“Yes.” he said, “Yes I remember being Shakespeare now. How long ago was that? And human beings are not only still around, but they’ve made it all the way here? I never would have figured that would happen. Though, you always did have a certain blind determination that I liked.”

“I don’t understand.” the ambassador finally said. “How can you be Shakespeare? How could you have been on all those different planets in all those different forms? Why do your writings keep appearing wherever we go?.”

The playwright smiled at the ambassador and picked up what he was working on.

“A new play.” said Remeile walking over to the ambassador, “Should be ready soon, just going through a new draft now. Any ideas how I should finish this line?”

The ambassador took the play and looked down at it. The last sentence stood half written.

O brave new world,” it read.

The ambassador looked up at Remeile. Then, almost as if it were instinct, he said “That has such people in it.”

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