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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 2: Brown 56
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 1, Slade 43
Derek Jacob Brown's last memory was of floating in space in a protective bubble with Lauren and Joe, two friends who were also versers, and realizing that the bubble had just popped. Although he took Joe's medical advice and tried to force all the air from his lungs, the pain had been excruciating, and he rapidly blacked out. Now he found himself floating again, as before, but with a warm safe feeling. He could not see, nor hear, nor otherwise sense anything.
His best theory for this was that he had been rescued, and was even now floating in some sort of sensory deprivation healing tank, while his severely damaged body repaired itself. After all, his boss knew they had gone out there, and they probably were a fairly obvious trio adrift in space like that. If they had been rescued in time, he could still be in the same universe. Whether it was dark because there were no lights or because his eyes were badly damaged he could not say; but either way, they were undoubtedly bringing him back to full health.
There were some problems with this theory. Perhaps the most serious of these was that when he reached out with his mind to try to pick up the thoughts of others, as Lauren had recently taught him to do, he could not find the people whose minds he should know. Lauren, Joe, and Raeph were nowhere to be found. As to Lauren and Joe, it might be that they, too, were in such tanks, and he couldn't catch their thoughts when they slept; it might be that they had not been rescued in time, and had moved on to other worlds. But neither of those explanations fit Raeph. He was not a verser, and was not at risk. He should still be here, somewhere nearby, if Derek was still on Terranova Habitat. It could only be explained by a severe streak of bad luck, that he kept missing the one mind he knew.
This notion was further complicated by the fact that there was a mind nearby that he had managed to find. It was something of a random find; he had struggled to find something nearby that was thinking, and then tuned in to hear those thoughts. Now that he found it, he often came back to it. But this mind, whatever it was, seemed unaware of him. It also seemed completely out of all accord with life on Terranova Habitat. The first thoughts he read from it were about gathering berries in the woods to make for dinner. He wondered if perhaps the next tank contained a psychiatric patient, or if he was slipping in and out of someone's extended dream. Yet he kept coming back to this mind, a moment here and a moment there, to see what it was thinking. He tried to make sense out of things like flying out to meet my brother juxtaposed against readying arrows for the hunt.
It was only moments and snatches that he was able to catch, because he found he was always tired, and always falling back to sleep. Perhaps it was something in the water, a drug that kept him sleeping. In fact, perhaps his mental contact was not a mental contact at all, but a dream he was having in the more lucid moments of his sleep.
Yet it didn't seem dreamlike at all. It wasn't as if it all seemed to make sense, but later he realized it didn't. It was that it didn't make sense as it was happening, and he was trying to make sense of it.
On one of his awakenings, he realized that he was hungry. It wasn't pit of the stomach hunger, but that sort of weakness that says you need to eat something to restore your energy. He couldn't eat. At this point, he hadn't figured out how to move even a finger, and he had not felt his mouth since he was last talking. He needed to get that energy, whatever nutrients it was that would help him, but he didn't have any way to do so.
He wondered whether the tank had malfunctioned. That would be ironic, he thought, if he had survived a space ship self-destructing only to die due to a fault in the medical equipment. He couldn't alert anyone to his need, and he couldn't do anything about it himself, so he hoped someone noticed in time.
Again he realized that he had been asleep; and he was still hungry and still tired. Not being able to eat, he allowed himself again to sleep.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #157: Versers Restart. 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: