Demon or Duolingo?

The first time the message appeared… click to enlarge

Today my story “Soft Deadline” went up on Elaine Pascale’s blog to celebrate Women in Horror month. Originally published in Trickster’s Treat’s III: Seven Deadly Sins (Things in the Well) something interesting and creepy happened during the writing I still can’t explain.

My story begins with a witch conjuring a date and she, of course, speaks in Latin. Rather than just make up gibberish, I created a phrase that sounded like a spell and translated it into Latin using Google Translate.

I usually read my work out loud, especially for something like that, and this was no exception. I read it once through, started reading it out loud a second time and then stopped. It was giving me the creeps… highly unusual.

After I’d sent the finished story off to Things in the Well, I logged on to my Duolingo to practice my Spanish. It was the usual lesson about how I’d like a glass of milk and can you bring the check please. And then this popped up—”I do not need to read your terms of service to accept you.” (See screen shot.)

As I practice, I’m reading this out loud, automatically, but as the sentence definition came through to me, I trailed off. I’ve never gotten a lesson like this before on Duolingo. It was high on the spooky scale for me, especially since I’d been repeating (fictional?) lines to conjure a demon less than an hour before. I took a screenshot and went on.

A minute later, the same page popped up. I didn’t read any of it out loud this time, mentally canceled any accidental requests I may have made and took another screen shot. I’ve never seen any message like it on Duolingo since. Nothing even similar.

I meant to make a post about it, but of course forgot until the story went up on Elaine’s blog tonight. You can read “Soft Deadline” on her blog here… but I suggest not reading the Latin out loud. What are your thoughts on this?

Weird Duolingo, or something else?

The story was originally published in Trickster’s Treat’s III: Seven Deadly Sins (Things in the Well). Click the link to find it on Amazon. Proceeds from the book benefit Charity: Water.

The second screen shot…

The second time the message appeared, a minute later.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit
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