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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 53: Hastings 19
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 52: Slade 17
"Phil and I broke up," Miss Meyers was saying. "I went to PCB, but I got a job at a local radio station, and I enjoyed it so much I turned it into a career. I think Phil was a bit uncomfortable about being the husband of a celebrity; anyway, I wanted to put off having a family for a while, and he wanted to start one sooner, so we kind of fizzled."
Sometimes in life you wondered, what if? Lauren Hastings and Lauren Meyers were getting a bit of a view of the alternatives.
"At first I was just spinning records and doing between-song chatter with a bit of news. But the management decided I should host a weekly public affairs talk show, and it went well. Meanwhile, I cut back to part time in school and transferred to Temple, where I eventually got my masters in psychology.
"Then the station was sold, and the music was dropped; but they liked my show, and expanded it to a daily talk show with an advice angle. Then we were approached for syndication, so now I'm carried by satellite to every major market in the U.S., and quite a bit of Canada. I try to bring a bit of a Biblical perspective into the show, and the audience seems to like that. I do a lot of good for people, and I make a lot of money doing it, and my name has become a household word. But it's not the life I envisioned back in high school."
"If it's any help," Mrs. Hastings suggested, "I don't think anyone's life is like they expected in high school. Mine wasn't, even though I did most of the things I expected. I got married, had kids, moved to a quieter neighborhood--but it wasn't at all what I thought it would be."
"I suppose that's true. But at least you did the things you dreamed. I ended up in a very different dream."
"You ended up discovering something wonderful that I never knew. You've had an amazing impact on the world, and you're going to continue to do so. What bothers you is the opportunity cost. You see me, and hear about my life, and you realize that this could have been your life; and you wonder if you would have been happy as me.
"Don't get me wrong--I wouldn't trade the life I had for the life you have. I had a wonderful marriage and great kids. But you don't live in my world. As similar as our worlds are, yours is very different. And if my world was like this, having kids would terrify me."
"So," Miss Meyers asked, "tell me about this world traveler thing. You really do get around, don't you?"
"From what I've heard, I'm just getting started. No one is absolutely sure how it happens. A lot of people believe that there's some substance called scriff which infects you, and once it's there you can't really die, but instead will be knocked out of one world and into another. I've seen it, a kind of gold-toned mercury, but it seems a very materialistic explanation to me--I really don't believe that I'm here because of some accident. Maybe scriff is involved, but I think that God chooses us to do his work. Not all of us--that is, versers, people who travel the multiverse--not all of us know that God is using us, or how. But I've noticed that the versers I've met have all made a difference in the worlds they've visited. Anyway, doesn't the Bible say that God used Pharaoh, and maybe some other ancient kings, even though they didn't know it? So wherever I go, I try to figure out why God put me there. Last place I was, it was to learn a lot of stuff, and I learned quite a bit. This time, it's to help save the world from...well, that's a lot already."
"No, go on. This is interesting."
"I work with a priest, a Father Matthew James.
"Oh, the guy at the Saint George Mission? We tried to get him on the show. You're helping with the indigents in the city?"
"Father James does wonderful things for the poor, I'm sure." Lauren hesitated, uncertain whether to continue. "But his real mission, and the reason he is in Philadelphia at all, has very little to do with that. Father James is a vampire hunter."
Miss Meyers laughed. "You're kidding, right? Has he found any?"
But Lauren remained somber. "Actually, we killed two Friday night. I had intended to ambush one of them, but the other caught us off guard. I had known about them for a couple weeks, and was working on plans to destroy them. But if I'd had any doubts, watching their bodies crumble to dust when they died dispelled the last of them.
"This world is a very different place than you think. My cab driver is a werewolf; he's one of the good guys. I've also met a five hundred year old sorceress who could pass for a coed. A ghoul tried to kill me a while back. And the hotspot known as The Pit is a base of operations for the local vampires. There are men and women in this world who know the truth about these things, and who put their lives on the lines to destroy evil wherever they find it. God is on their side. I'm helping them."
"This is a lot to take on faith."
Lauren couldn't argue with that.
"You can meet Raal, my cab driver; and you can meet Father James. I don't think I can introduce you to any vampires. Apart from the fact that it would be very dangerous for you, after killing two on Friday I only know of one other for certain, and he doesn't like me or trust me. Besides, if they mistake you for me, that could be bad for both of us."
All of this, and much more, was dinner conversation. Lauren did not much notice the food. She did promise to talk again, and after dinner introduced Raal, and had him drive both of them. They dropped Miss Meyers at Father James' house, so she could meet him and hear his story. Making certain she got inside all right, Lauren went home to change for a trip to The Pit. Raal dropped her there before leaving to collect Miss Meyers.
Entering the nightclub, Lauren asked to see Gavin. He was not there, she was told. She asked if they knew when he would be in, and feigned surprise and concern when they told her he had not been in all week, and no one was certain why not. She asked that he be told please to contact her as soon as he was seen, and she prepared to leave.
But she was blocked on the way to the door. Horta stood in her path.
"I don't like you," he said.
"Well, we never really got to know each other, did we?" she retorted.
"I don't like you and I don't trust you. I think you killed Gavin. As long as Gavin isn't around to invite you in here, stay out."
"Fancy that. I was just leaving anyway. Oh, if you see him, ask him if he got the pages all right."
And Lauren walked out of the building and down the street. Out of habit she walked into an alley and crossed the roof of a building; her clairvoyance did not find anyone or anything behind her.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #37: Character Diversity. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: