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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 100: Hastings 35
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 99: Kondor 33
The nesting ground of the parakeet people was very nice, despite seeming very temporary. Although for the first few days she had a sense that she made them nervous, like some kind of resident monster, they grew to accept her quickly.
She made a point of actually learning the language, rather than relying too much on her telepathic connection. For one thing, the link was unreliable--she couldn't get it to work every time. And then, when it went down, she remembered very little of the language. She had to try to remember particular words and phrases and repeat them when the link was down. She found it easier to sing instead of whistle, but the parakeets understood her. She also had trouble with names; they never translated well, probably, she thought, because they were too specific, connected not so much to ideas as to memories about people. So learning the syntax and vocabulary seemed to be the only way to assure communication.
This point was brought home to her strongly on the fifth day that she was there. A very different bird person came into camp. This one was much less colorful, brown and black, and apparently part of a different race, maybe a different species, which Lauren dubbed the sparrow people. She gathered that they lived in caves in the rocky mountain face, and didn't entirely like the parakeet people being on the lake shore. But the one who visited seemed angered about something, and although Lauren had tried to make out what they were whistling, she couldn't get a link. Reading thoughts directly didn't help, as, like most people, they tended to think in their own language when they were talking, so she was no closer to understanding them that way. Once in a while she was able to get something from mind reading, images and abstract ideas, but generally only when her targets were quiet.
They helped her build her home of woven sticks, wads of grass and sod, dry leaves, and, on the inside, wildflowers. The floor was a raised layer of sticks with the softest of linings, and made for a comfortable bed. To her it seemed like a wigwam above, but more like a nest below, and since the only word they used for a home meant nest, that's what they called it. Hers was a bit larger than theirs, but on the same pattern.
The staple food was fish, which was generally eaten raw. Lauren had heard of sushi, but had never had it; and although she had eaten tuna salad and didn't know whether that was actually cooked before canning she was a bit nervous about raw fish herself. So she built a stone fire pit and managed to start a fire using her pyrokinesis and a bit of dry grass for tinder. It was not so easy here as it had been in Philadelphia, but with a little effort it worked.
The parakeet people were again afraid of her; they apparently had never tamed fire. To them, fire was something which raged out of control through the forests and across the fields, and drove them into the lake for safety while destroying their nests. Even when she showed how she was able to control and contain it, and even extinguish it, they were not comfortable around it. But she always cooked her fish, and when they started bringing in lizards and snakes to add to her diet she cooked these as well. They also ate nuts and berries, although Lauren was less certain about how safe these were for her, having heard once that birds were able to eat certain berries that were poisonous to people.
They tried to teach her to catch food. They were skilled at ambush, and would wade into the lake up to their hips and stand motionless for long periods of time, suddenly stabbing their arms through the surface and snatching a large fish. They would do the same with snakes and lizards, stalking them quietly and suddenly pouncing, almost catlike Lauren thought, and then realized it was more like a hawk or an eagle. It was a skill she didn't think she would master; but she did manage to adapt the technique to a type of spear fishing, for which she used one of her hunting arrows.
She explored the meadow, but although the plants were lovely and fragrant and similar in many ways to those at home, she never found anything that seemed quite the same as the fields of earth, and so stayed away from eating wild vegetation.
Spring passed into summer slowly; she hadn't thought to keep track of the days, but now it seemed that time moved more slowly here than home, at least in regard to seasonal changes. She was comfortable in her new home, enjoying her well-earned rest, reveling in her vacation.
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 #59: Verser Lives and Deaths. 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: