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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 114: Slade 38
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Previous chapter: Chapter 113: Hastings 39
This new world was, frankly, boring. Slade threw himself back into practice, because there really wasn't anything else to do. He could chat with Lauren and Joe, but within a few weeks they'd told most of the tales of their travels and most of their best jokes, so there wasn't much else to say. Oh, he could engage either of them in a philosophical debate, but he wasn't much for that kind of thing--more a man of action, he thought, than of ideas.
The idea that Odin's warriors were going to lose in the end had unnerved him; but he realized two things. First, Lauren Hastings couldn't see the future and didn't believe in Ragnorak anyway (she believed in Armageddon, which was not quite the same thing), so she could easily have it wrong. Second, it was going to be a tough war, and it would depend on men like him to turn the tide, so he had all the more reason to prepare.
He just didn't know why he was here. There were no wars--the parakeet people didn't seem to have a word for war, as far as Lauren could tell him. He wondered if he'd been benched for a while. Well, he'd had some good fights in the last world, and he was getting some decent practice time here, so maybe it was just a matter of preparation and timing. He hoped to be back in action soon enough.
Lauren was trying to teach him the sing-song language of the bird people. He learned a few words, mostly to humor her; but he didn't really need to talk to them, as far as he could see. She could handle any communication necessary between people and birds; and as it was, she communicated with them far more than he thought necessary, teaching them about fire and pottery and wheels and levers and other simple concepts, and talking to them about religion--he knew it was about religion, because she would say "Jesus" in English in the midst of a string of musical nonsense. Well, there was no harm in her preaching to the parakeets. They were unlikely candidates for the armies of Odin.
He did feel a bit like he was imposing on Lauren and Joe by sleeping in their nest. Lauren said that the birdmen wouldn't build another nest, but she didn't seem to know why not. He several times offered to sleep outside, but she wouldn't hear of it, insisting that the nest was more comfortable (which it was) and that they should share what they had between them, as they were in a sense connected by their unusual lives. "I think," she said, "that the reason all three of us are here, in the same place at the same time, may have something to do with the scriff. It's like we were attuned to each other, like being on the same frequency."
"I thought you thought it was because God had some purpose for us here," Joe said.
"Well, that, too. Nothing happens but that God has some purpose behind it. But there's a difference between why something happens and how it happens, and I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't run into each other out here again somewhere, sometime."
"Yes, I agree that there's a difference between why and how," Joe said. "How is the reason things happen, the causes and processes which bring about events. Why is a misguided attempt to infer meaning from the chaos of random events through which we live."
"We're not going to argue that again," Slade said. "The point is, do you think that this scriff stuff is somehow connecting us?"
"I don't see why not," Joe answered. "After all, it connects us to our equipment, so that it comes with us to each new world, and we can find it when we get there. And we were able to sense each other in the same way, so it must be at least similar. But whether it connects us to each other more or less than to other versers, I couldn't say."
"If there are any other versers," Slade mused.
"Oh, yes, there are," Lauren said. "I met a couple in the first world I was in. They told me about dozens of people who had been there before me, and some of their ideas about the multiverse, scriff, and what had happened to us."
"Don't look at me," Joe said, and Slade realized he had been looking at him for some kind of confirmation. "I never met one, but Lauren said she met a couple, and it makes sense to me that there must be some out there somewhere."
"Where did you meet them?" Slade asked.
"Oh, well, they called that place NagaWorld, and their city they called Umak Tek; but I don't imagine that's much help. It was a very strange world, mostly a flat plain of orange grass."
"Orange grass?" Slade said, remembering back over the years. "The first place I was in had orange grass, and a huge city made of glass. Is that Umak Tek?"
"Well, that's NagaWorld; but no one lives in the Glass City."
"Something does," Joe injected. "It killed me."
"You were there, too?" Slade asked. "Well, maybe there is something to this tuned scriff thing, if we all started in the same world, and now we're together again."
Lauren said, "Yes, I think there's something which brought us together here."
Slade didn't want to admit that they had been brought together here for some reason, especially since neither of his companions agreed with his view of that reason. Nervously shifting the toothpick to the other side of his mouth, he said, "Or maybe it really is just chance."
"Yeah," Joe said, "like drawing the two of spades from a pinochle deck."
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 #64: Versers Gather. 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: