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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 88: Hastings 31
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Previous chapter: Chapter 87: Kondor 29
Once again it was night. The air was cool, fresh, and smelled of earth and wood and wilderness. Lauren could hear the chirping sound which she'd always thought was crickets until she read somewhere that it was made by tree frogs. Now the question: was she somewhere else in the same world, or was this a new universe? She realized that she had never gone far from Philadelphia--she visited Cherry Hill a couple times. But the earth was a big place, and she'd only seen a small part of it. Was this another part of it, or was she gone?
Raal? she thought, reaching out with her mind; but the wolf was not there. Father James? Annuda? Lauren Meyers? No, if she was still in the same world, something was definitely different. They could all be dead, which wasn't likely. There could be some kind of dampening field for mental energy around her, but that seemed a lot of effort to prevent something few knew she could do. They could be too far away--but she had no idea how far that would be, and distance had never been a problem before. No, the best guess was this was a new world.
She realized that this was the third time she had "versed" into a new universe, and it was always at night. She wondered whether everyone always versed in at night, or whether it was peculiar to her, or whether it just happened that she hit three out of three. After all, most worlds you had a fifty/fifty chance, and flipping heads three times in a row--well, it happened one time in eight, didn't it? It was the same odds as having three boys, or three girls, and a lot of people did that.
She sat up and looked around. She was in a light, open wood; a fair amount of moonlight shone through to the ground, and she could see some stars, but no familiar patterns, through the leaves. But she couldn't see well.
She might as well take a chance on the cat's eye, she thought. She pulled the bag of trinkets from an inner pocket, and squeezed the round one to the top into her left hand. Closing her hand around it, she could see much more clearly. Her psionic blaster was over here, and the telekinetic rods were piled there, and her Bible lying on the leaves over there. She gathered her gear. But most of her belongings had been home, and home had been some distance away. Well, the sooner she found it the less trouble it would be. She scooped up her things as well as she could; they were somewhat awkward without either Raal's taxi or her cart to carry them, especially with her left hand clenched. But thus burdened, she began walking toward that spot to which her sense of direction seemed to be pointing her.
She wondered if this world would be so peaceful everywhere. She had been in Philadelphia for maybe six weeks, but it had seemed an eternity. A rest would be welcome. Of course, she knew that God had sent her here for a reason, a purpose; she just hoped that part of that purpose would be to recuperate.
The ground was sloping down. This was a good thing. It occurred to her that it was possible her gear might be buried, if it was lower than she when she was killed. But it might not be a problem this time.
After an hour of trudging through the woods, she found her cart. Most of her things were in it, save a few that had been scattered around the house, including her dirty laundry. The rest she gathered and packed. She had no idea how much night had passed or how much remained, but there was some sense to getting some sleep while she had the chance. She rolled out the sleeping bag, removed the robe and armor in favor of a clean sweatsuit, and made herself comfortable on the ground. Tomorrow would be soon enough to discover what this world was about.
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 #55: Stories Winding Down. 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: