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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 44: Hastings 108
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 43: Slade 60
Over the next several weeks, Lauren expanded her territory in several ways. She explored the island. Finding a stand of younger bamboo-like trees, she cut these to frame her shelter. She continued exploring and using her psionic abilities, now using the psionic slicer with which she had once removed the vampire Tubrok's head (not, unfortunately, ending the monster's existence) to cut fruit clusters from the trees, aiming it with her clairvoyance. She tried more fruits, and began testing other plants for leafy vegetables and tubers, with some success.
She wondered about adding meat to her diet. By now she was well satisfied that the birds were not intelligent creatures, and that it wouldn't be wrong to eat them. However, she wasn't entirely certain how to catch them. It wasn't that she couldn't catch them; she had many ways to do this. Her psionic capture rod would bring one down alive; but then she would have to kill it, and she wasn't at all clear how to do that in a swift and humane way. The last thing she killed in the capture field she crushed to death, a technique that was certainly painful, and not really conducive to preparing for cooking. She had bullets and arrows, but these she could easily deplete and not easily replace. She gave serious consideration to attempting to behead the animals in flight with her slicer, but thought it possible she would only injure one and then have to hit it more than once to finish it. She really wanted a way to bring down a bird such that it died instantly, with at most a moment of pain, without having to capture it first. Death without fear, death without pain--the sort of thing perhaps that all men wanted. She had been through death several times, and although she had less fear than she once had, there was usually pain.
The psionic blaster became the weapon of choice. It used no ammunition but her thoughts, and she could replace those easily enough. She had gotten quite good with it, and had a good chance of killing a bird on the wing on one shot, particularly if it flew close enough. On the down side, it was blunt trauma, and tended to break bones. The drill had advantages in that regard, as it tended to punch holes; but by the same token, it was less likely to bring down the target on one shot, and was harder to aim at a distant target. Still, she would use both, she decided, trying the blaster first and then the drill.
Thus prepared, she had her first seagull dinner about a month after her arrival. Hunting proved to be the easy part. Cleaning and cooking was a long and messy job; but she had done all this with the pheasant-like birds back in the parakeet world, when she and Bob Slade had weathered the winter together.
She wondered how Bob was doing, what he was doing, and whether they would meet again. Her theories about the multiverse suggested they would, that some versers had a kind of connection which brought them together frequently. Already she had been together twice with Joe and twice with Derek; meeting Bob again seemed fairly certain. After all, it's not like he would die before their paths crossed; their paths would only cross because one of them died. It was much like she had imagined years ago, and yet much different, when she had envisioned meeting her loved ones in heaven. Death was the door that took you to another world. Eventually she would get to that other world; she didn't know when or how. Meanwhile, she was going to live many lives in many worlds, help many people (including people who weren't people in the strictest sense), do whatever God had for her. When she was done, heaven would be waiting, and she would catch up with her family there and then, as if they had never been apart.
It struck her that there was an inconsistency in her thinking. It was, apparently, entirely possible that she, or Bob, would come to the end of these extended lives without again meeting each other. She had somehow imagined an eternal natural life and an eternal life after death, without realizing they were not compatible ideas. Yet she knew that in this current world she could not die, could not stay dead, but that there was an eternal life waiting beyond death.
She spent some thought trying to reconcile these points, without success. Yet she did achieve a success of sorts. She realized that both could well be true, that there could be some way for her to move from this life to the next that did not involve death. Enoch walked with God, and God took him, or so the Bible said. Whether you thought that meant he suddenly one day stepped from earth to heaven, it did mean that the end came. She picked up her Bible and found the passage in Genesis. It didn't exactly say that he didn't die; only that one day he wasn't there anymore. And there was Elijah, too, who was picked up by a whirlwind, protected by a chariot of fire, and tossed his cloak to Elisha as he left. The Bible spoke of believers being caught up in the clouds, alive, when Jesus returned for them. There were certainly ways to get to heaven which did not require dying. It was not such a paradox as it appeared.
As Lauren ate her supper, she thanked God again for His provision, and for the insight He gave her into all these things.
She also decided that she should move beyond the inner powers and try the outer powers, testing whether magic also worked well in this world.
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: