keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 38: Brown 67
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 37: Slade 57
From that moment, it took Derek twelve days to learn to fly. He counted them. By the third day he was already telling himself that he just needed patience and practice to succeed. By the seventh he wondered if there was something about him that made it impossible for him to learn it. On the tenth, he almost gave up. Finally on the twelfth day his wings lifted him up into the air and held him there for a moment.
He still had a long way to go if he would ever go anywhere at all. Still, having broken that first barrier, he was flooded with hope and expectation. He could do this.
Derek remembered once thinking that he ached in muscles he didn't know he had. This time he ached in muscles that he didn't have, or at least, didn't have when he last remembered aching. Sore wings were entirely new to his experience. It made him uncomfortable as he slept.
"I don't suppose we have any aspirin," he said, more to himself than anyone else.
"What's that, dear?" his mother answered.
Probably they didn't have anything like that, he thought; they would have given him something for the tooth pain if they did. But then, if he never asked, he might be assuming things about the world that were not true.
"I was just thinking," he said, "wouldn't it be good to have something like a medicine you could use to get rid of pain? My wings are sore. I know why they're sore; they hurt because I was learning to fly, and they had to work hard today. They'll be better tomorrow. Meanwhile, if they didn't hurt so much, I could sleep better."
"If they didn't hurt so much," Morani suggested, "you'd be tempted to try again too soon. Pain is a good thing. It tells you when you've reached your limit."
Derek didn't answer right away. He didn't like to argue with his father, and he had a sense that his father didn't like him to do so. He thought he might be able to say more about it without arguing, if he chose his words well.
"Yes, but once the pain tells me I've reached my limit, as long as I agreed to rest, couldn't I just turn it off for a while, until after I'm rested?"
"And if you turned it off, would you remember to turn it on again? You might hurt yourself and not know it, if you got rid of your pain completely."
That was right; but it was also interesting. Derek wondered whether there was a way he could actually turn off the pain, or at least turn it down. His father was right, it wasn't something you wanted to turn off completely and permanently. It was something you could do without for a while, if you could turn it off and then turn it back on again later. That was, after all, what aspirin did; it turned off your pain for a while, and then when it wore off turned it on again. He thought Lauren could probably do that with her mind; and if she could do it, he could probably do it, too. He just didn't know how.
That led him to wonder what else he could do with his mind. She use to do all sorts of things. If he started to teach himself, how much could he learn to do?
A darker question entered his mind. How much could his parents accept? It had been difficult for them to come to terms with an infant who could talk to their minds directly. If small objects started floating through the air, or he began to see things that were far away, or he began to tell people about their future, would his father again begin to think him some sort of demon child or something?
What his father thought brought back to his mind that other expectation, the belief his mother had that he might be a God-sent deliverer. He as yet had not determined from what sprites needed to be delivered; but he was no bigger–well, no bigger than a sprite, and actually a rather small one at the moment. Somewhere he had a laser rifle, a pack of paralyzing darts, a butcher knife, and a chain, all of which were almost certainly far and away too big for him to lift let alone use. Really, he had nothing but himself, whatever he could find within himself, to face whatever it was he was to face. It would be better to find out what he had within himself than to ignore a possibility.
However, he had reason to suspect that a mistake in this kind of thing could be very dangerous. He could hurt someone; he could hurt himself. It would be best to proceed with caution.
In the end, the sore wings did not keep him awake. He had spent most of his energy trying to stay aloft, and quickly fell asleep. He was vaguely and distantly aware of his father carrying him to bed.
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 #174: Versers Achieve. 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: