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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 10: Hastings 47
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Previous chapter: Chapter 9: Brown 3
Lying on the ground surrounded by she knew not what, Lauren tried to get her bearings. Her equipment wouldn't be far from her; she was just on the other side of the hill from Bob's cook fire when the accident happened, and the scattered gear was between them. But which direction was that? She must have fallen over backwards. She had been sitting facing downhill, and that meant everything was behind her. If she could muster herself, she should be able to roll back, push herself up into a handspring onto her feet, and land pretty close to her things. She tried to focus. Go now, she thought.
But she didn't go. She realized that she wasn't completely awake. The reality around her was filtering into her dreams, but it was all confused. Bob had said something about reaching a point when he wasn't completely out but wasn't really awake either when he versed in. That must be what this was.
She took a deep breath, finding the connection between her mind and her body, striving toward that higher state of consciousness known as awake. Then she propped herself up and shook her head.
The birds melted into tall, mossy trees; the smoke retreated into mist in the hollows.
Woods again, but these were very different woods.
Her things were right where she expected. They were still damp from the rain of another world. She wasn't sure whether to pack them or set up camp. She decided it would be better to discover what this world was before settling in somewhere. She stowed everything into her cart, trying to keep the sleeping gear on top so it could dry.
The last thing she found was her frying pan. It was blackened and smelled of fish and herbs. Just her luck, she thought–Bob got to eat the fish, she got to clean the pan. Well, this wasn't the time or the place for doing dishes, so she'd have to pack it dirty.
The ground was soft, pristine and untrodden beneath her feet. It was comfortable for her soles, but difficult for the wheels of her cart. Once again she wondered whether to try using her telekinesis, or perhaps the rod, to do the work; but she needed a good workout. The long winter of inactivity had left her a bit soft, and it was time to get back in shape. She gave a yank, and stumbled forward between the trees.
It was hard work, but she stuck to it. The wheels bumped and jostled over stones and tree roots as she searched in vain for something that resembled a road or even a path. She could try that magic thing she did in the last world, but she was stubborn and just wanted to prove to herself that she didn't need special powers merely to travel through the woods. Finally she saw a place where the ground was worn, where someone had passed often between the trees, and headed for that. It was narrow, more a doorway than a roadway, but wide enough for the cart to fit.
She passed through into what she would have called a glade, an open space within the trees. Seated on a stump in the midst was an old man, white-haired with a long, full beard, thin and robed. He looked at her and said something, but in a language she did not even recognize. However, she had done something before, with the parakeet people, that was worth trying again. She reached her thoughts toward him, finding the speech center of his brain, so she could grasp his language. "Pardon me?" she said in words that sounded foreign in her own mouth.
"I've been expecting you," he repeated.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #78: Novel Fears. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: