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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 113: Brown 39
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Derek sat a long time alone in a room with a table and several chairs. Obviously they were watching him, waiting to see what he would do. What did they expect him to do, evaporate? Were there creatures in this universe who would suddenly morph to another form, or who disguised themselves as human but could only retain the appearance for a few hours? The room was designed for interrogations, he thought; they were going to interrogate him. The delay had a purpose. Maybe it was just a psychological attempt to break him down, to get him worried enough that he made a mistake. Maybe it was something else.
He sat in the chair and relaxed his mind. He could sense his equipment, still all the same direction and so probably all in the same place. He wondered what they would make of it. They had pulled his chips out of the computer, packed up his tools, even had him empty his pockets. Well, if they can figure out who he is from all that, they deserve a prize.
Finally someone came into the room, and sat across the table from Derek. The man looked as if he did not know how to begin.
"So," Derek said, "you're the interrogator?"
"Interrogator?" The man reflected on the term. "I suppose that word might apply. I do want to ask you a few questions."
Yes, Derek thought, that's what they always say. We want to ask you a few questions. From there it moved to sleep deprivation, hunger and thirst, and then torture, which in this setting was always of a sort that would wrack you with pain and destroy your mind without leaving a mark on your body. It didn't usually matter whether you answered honestly or not; the interrogators needed to prove you were telling the truth by trying to force it out of you. It was hopeless in his case. No one would believe the truth, but no lie he could create would be more than plausible on the surface. There was nothing for it but to answer the questions and see where it all led.
"Well, I suppose then we should get started."
The man smiled; always a bad sign. The nice ones never smile, because they don't want you to know they are nice; it's the mean ones who smile, to lure you into a false sense of security before they strike.
"We could start with your name."
"You have my computer; you have all my gear. By now you should have been able to work out that I'm Derek Jacob Brown."
"That's what it says. What do people call you?"
"Lots of things." Oh, that sounded defiant, he thought. Defiant was not good–it only hurried the inevitable torture scenes. "Derek is good."
"All right, Derek, where are you from?"
Now that would be a very tough one. "I'm from a town called Mahwah in a place called New Jersey, in the United States of America, a planet called Earth, in what we called the Solar System because the planets orbited a star we called Sol. It was in the outer arm of the Milky Way galaxy. Does any of that help at all?"
Whether it helped was not clear; the next question came, more difficult than the last. "And how did you get here?"
"You're not going to believe this one. I'm not certain whether I believe it. I can give you some of the possibilities, and if you can sort them out I'd love to hear what you think." The man sat implacable in front of him, so he continued.
"I suppose I should distinguish the theories from the facts."
"All I'm asking is what ship brought you here."
"No ship brought me here. I crossed some sort of inter-dimensional gate or rift and materialized here, in a restaurant on concourse seventeen."
"That's a rather imaginative explanation of yourself, isn't it?"
"I can tell you this. For my twelfth birthday I got a new game controller for a video game. It shorted out, and some weird stuff got on me that I have since learned to call scriff. I blacked out and woke up in a strange world with orange grass, and sat there thinking I was having a strange dream until the sun came up and it turned into a nightmare, as some black bush fired intense beams of focused light at me until I blacked out again. I woke up in an autumn wood, found a house, and was shot by the owner, who was trying to cover his tracks for a murder into which I had stumbled. Then I awoke in what I am convinced was a haunted house, and was thrown out a plate glass window by an invisible force I would call a poltergeist. Finding myself in a swamp, I pushed my bike through the muck to a castle, where I got washed up and then fell asleep; I'm guessing the people there killed me in my sleep, because I awoke next in a park area of a camp, and stayed there the day until someone started killing people. I figured out who did it and let everyone know, but by then he had stabbed me and I was on my way again. The next place was a lot better. It didn't seem so at first, because I awoke locked inside an abandoned building with a lot of computers and such, and it took a long time for me to figure out how to work the doors. But I met some people there, and I learned a lot about what was happening to me. I stayed there about ten years, and became a teacher in a school. Most of what I know about computers I learned then. I went from there to find another place to start a new school, but was killed by some mutants who hated humans, and that is how I came to be here.
"I've heard that there are a lot of theories to explain what is happening to people like me. Two of them seem likely. It might be that that strange gold liquid metal that got on me has the ability to keep me alive and cause me to move from universe to universe whenever I'm about to die, or maybe when I die. Or it might be that I'm lying comatose in a hospital somewhere having these strange dreams, and I'm not here at all. I'm inclined toward the first answer at this point, but whichever answer is correct I'm sure that you won't tell me it's the second."
The interrogator stared silently at him, his expression completely blank. He then rose and left the room without a word.
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 #119: Character Projects. 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: