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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 86: Brown 29
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 85: Hastings 71
"How old are you anyway?"
Derek was surprised by the question, not only because he didn't hear Starson enter the room.
"Excuse me?" he asked.
"When we met you here, you looked like a twelve year old boy. Ten years have passed, and everyone is getting older–Chicker can hardly write anymore, and always types his notes on the computer–but you still look like a twelve year old boy. So how old are you really?"
This was an awkward question. "I don't think I'd have known if you didn't tell me. But when you met me I was twelve, maybe twelve and a half. Something happened to me maybe a week before I got here, and since then I don't seem to be getting older. But I guess if you count years, I must be twenty-two."
And, it occurred to him, if you count years since my birthday, it's closer to six or seven hundred.
"Does it matter?"
"Not in any way that I know, but it did seem very strange. When we met it would not have surprised me that you might outlive us, but now I think you might outlive everybody."
"Or I might die tomorrow. I certainly don't know what's going to happen to me."
"That's true. It doesn't seem very likely, though."
"No. But it didn't seem likely so many years ago that one of our students would kill Lauren, and she's gone."
"Kill her?" Starson was puzzled. Derek had goofed.
"Do you remember," he said, "on the day we met I asked you if you were like me?"
"No–oh, wait, yes, and Lauren said that she was like you. I didn't know what she meant."
"No, and there's no reason why you should have understood it. Lauren and I are people from another world."
"You mean like aliens from another planet?"
"Well, no, but I guess it could be like that. I was born on earth in 1988, and in 2000 I died. But something happened to me when I died. Lauren says I got this stuff called scriff in my body, and it won't let me stay dead. So after I died, I woke up in another world. And I was killed in that world, and woke up in another. And this happened several times until one day I woke up in this control room, and started trying to figure out how it worked. A few days later you showed up, and Lauren explained it all to me."
Starson was listening; Derek wasn't sure how much he believed.
"Lauren didn't teleport in from some other part of this world. She had been in a place called England in another world about two thousand years ago, and was killed by a vampire–a monster that looks a lot like a man but lives by drinking blood. She came back to life in the woods not far from where you were, and you saw her arrive. I did the same thing to get here. And when the cat creature attacked her in the classroom, he must have caught her off guard because she didn't fight well at all. He killed her, and her body vanished again to come alive in a different world. She could be anywhere right now."
Starson stood looking at him for another minute, and then walked out without another word. Derek wondered whether he believed the story, or didn't believe it, or was somewhere in between.
But he hadn't realized how much time had passed. He was now twenty-two, counting by years lived. He had learned more about computers than he had known possible; he could write in several programming languages, and understood in detail how each chip in the system worked. He could do trigonometry and calculus adequately, and had read quite a bit about relativity and quantum theory. He was for practical purposes a college graduate, and was running out of challenging reading material.
More than that, he was beginning to think that he should do something. Certainly what he had been doing was important. He was learning things which would be useful in many ways, and he was also helping others learn and so changing the world. But he had by now spent near half his lifetime in and around this one building. It was a pleasant little world within the fence, but he did not envision spending eternity here. It struck him that it was a bit like prison, but that it was voluntary. It might be time for him to volunteer to move on to something else.
He made up his mind to discuss it with the others.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #110: Character Redirects. 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: