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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 46: Brown 69
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Derek decided that it was silly to believe that animals could think in any way that would make it possible to talk with them. Part of it was the idea that if he could talk with them, he couldn't very well eat them; but part of it was that he had some idea that they were different precisely because they were animals. Perhaps this was circular reasoning; or perhaps it was an innate sense of how the world was made.
However, even if he couldn't hear what animals were thinking, he might be able to give them instructions. This didn't seem so very unlikely at all. After all, people were able to make animals do tricks and even work, with little more than words and treats and signals. Maybe he couldn't get thoughts from a creature that couldn't think; but if he could put thoughts into its mind (or whatever that would be in an animal) he could probably get it to do things, perhaps better than you could manage by training an animal.
He soon had the opportunity to test his theory. Seeing a butterfly, he held out his arm. (His first thought had been to hold out a finger, but the creature was relatively the size of a large bird.) Then he focused his mind on sending his thoughts to its mind.
The butterfly fluttered over and perched on his arm gently.
He heard his mother gasp.
"It's all right, Mom. I told it to land there. I wanted to see if I could get an animal to do what I wanted." He realized that this was a trick that could be used in far more ways than he had considered. "Don't tell Dad, I think; not yet, anyway."
With another thought, he got the butterfly to leave. Was it coincidence? Did the creature just happen to land on his outstretched arm because it looked inviting, and then leave because of some twitch or motion he didn't know he made? He needed to try this on other animals, get them to do other things. But he needed to be careful. At his size, a squirrel could probably break him in half; a large bird of prey could make a meal of him. He would need small animals, and relatively safe ones–the sort he'd imagined as pets would be best. But they were not going to be so easy to find, particularly as he was not so mobile, and his mother was careful not to let him wander out of her sight.
Perhaps this was something he would work on when he had opportunity, but mostly when he was older. The real question was, what else could he do?
He pondered this question for several days. There was the edge of an idea in his mind, and he was trying to give it form. He had, he thought, contacted the mind of a butterfly, such as it was. There was something, something like a flavor left behind, or an aroma, that he connected with that butterfly. It was different from the sense he had of sprites, or for that matter of Lauren and Joe. Now that he considered it, it might be something like the flavor of a butterfly mind. He wondered whether he could use that flavor to call a butterfly.
He thought a lot about how he would do it. It would be like sending out a thought, but without any idea in it. It was just a call. Would a butterfly answer it? There was one way to find out. One afternoon he sat as quietly as he could, tried to remember that butterfly flavor, and sent out a thought that matched it as nearly as he could.
In a moment, a butterfly came into view. It worked.
Derek's mind began racing ahead. He could call and control animals. He couldn't do it well; and admittedly thus far he'd only done butterflies. But if he worked on it, he could build up to mice, cats, dogs, horses–he might one day control very powerful creatures, who would come when he thought and do what he thought. Well, whatever it was that he was going to have to do, this would probably help a great deal.
But remembering Lauren, he realized that this was just the tip of the iceberg. There was so much more he might be able to do, if he could only think how to do it.
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 #180: Versers Focus. 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: