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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 62: Hastings 22
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In the faded reality around her, Lauren saw the dogs slow and start sniffing the ground. "Zombie dogs?" she said.
"Yes," Raal answered. "They kill attack dogs in their prime, and then bring them back as zombies. Very dangerous, and very tough to kill. Real dogs I could scare just by growling at them, but these don't scare."
"So, this is the twilight," Lauren asked. "Do you come here often?"
"Oh, all the time, but usually I drive."
"So, how do we get where we're going?"
"Well, it's a bit strange. In part, you walk--and if you don't walk, you never get anywhere. But in part you think about where you're going. So you have to walk in order to move, but you have to think about where you're headed to go the right way."
It sounded like a wonderful sermon illustration to Lauren; it was too bad no one in churches knew about the twilight.
"So, if we want to go to my place, we think about my place, and then start walking?"
"Yeah, that's right. Try it."
Lauren did try it, and it worked. In seconds they were standing in the gray shadowy unreality that resembled her living room. "Now how do we get from here to there?"
"Well, I don't know how quite to explain it."
"Then let me try; maybe I've got something."
Stretching her left hand in front of her, fingers pointed through the gloom, she spoke, "Knock, and the door shall be opened to you." The gloom parted, and she stepped forward into her living room. Raal stepped through behind her.
"Well, I've never seen it done that way, but it seems to have worked."
"Yes, but what about your cab?"
"Oh, it will be fine there for a while. I'll go back for it in an hour, and by that time the traffic will be gone, so even if the goon squad is still there I should be able to get out with no trouble."
"I should go with you."
"I'll be fine."
"I'm sure you will. But I do want to try traveling the edge again, and if there is trouble there you're better off with backup--especially if someone's waiting for you to come for the cab."
"Of course, if you get good at traveling the between, you won't need my services any more."
"Don't worry about that, Raal. You're much more than the best driver in the city. You're also about the closest thing I have to a friend in this world." She tossed her rod on the chair, and pulled off the robe. Removing the coif while headed for the kitchen, she called back, "While you're waiting, can I fix you some lunch?"
"That's very kind of you, ma'am. I'd like that."
"Is there anything you don't eat? I'm thinking of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and some cream of mushroom soup myself, but I can make something else if you prefer."
"No, that sounds fine. We've got a pretty hardy digestive system, and good teeth; if there's anything people eat that we can't I haven't discovered it yet. But I'm not terribly fond of kibble."
Lauren laughed. "Soup and sandwiches it is then." And she set to work on lunch.
After lunch, she decided to try to reach Bethany. The girl had contacted her mind once, and Lauren hoped that would give her enough familiarity to return the favor. It worked.
"Hi," Lauren began. "Can we meet somewhere later? I'm planning a big hit on the vampires, and thought you might like to help."
Bethany's response was cheerful, even playful. Lauren wondered if the girl was ever serious about anything. "Sounds like fun," came the reply. "Where and when?"
"What about dinner? Raal can find any restaurant in the city."
"You buying? I haven't been to Bookbinders in about forty years. Is it still there?"
Lauren had to ask Raal; but yes, the restaurant was still there, as good and as expensive as ever.
"I have to be somewhere tonight, but I can meet you there around four. Do we need reservations?"
"I'll make them. See you there."
"Bethany and I will be having dinner at Bookbinders at four today," she told Raal. "She's making reservations. Now, let's get that cab."
Rising, she repeated her hand movement and the words, and again something appeared, this time a mist in the air. Stepping into it, she found herself in the strange shadowy world through which she had recently traveled. Raal was behind her. She brought the image of the parking lot to her mind, actually viewing it with her clairvoyance, and took four steps forward through the mist. They were there.
"You're better at this than I am," Raal ventured. "It usually takes me a couple hundred yards to get across the river."
"Beginner's luck," she replied. "Anyway, I still have to get back to the other reality." And she repeated her ritual, again clearing the mists and stepping into the parking lot.
All was quiet here; but one of the tires on the cab had been flattened.
"That could be intended as a delaying tactic, to slow us down so that they have time to attack," Raal suggested.
"Let me help you with it. You have a spare?"
"Of course," he said, as he opened the trunk. As soon has he removed the jack, Lauren focused her telekinetic power on the car, and lifted the corner.
"That should save us some time," she said, and he put the jack in place to hold it up and grabbed the lug wrench.
The tire was changed quickly and easily, and Lauren telekinetically helped put everything back into the trunk. They pulled out of the parking lot just as someone came out of the building, but didn't look back.
"Gavin's people obviously haven't figured out that he's not coming back. Maybe there's someone we missed who's keeping things going."
"Probably," Raal answered. "But I'd bet that whoever it is won't survive the fall of The Pit."
"No." She gazed out the window into the grayness of the between. "That seems to be the heart of evil in this area."
"And thanks to you, we're about to tear it out and eat it."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #43: Novel Worlds. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: