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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 162: Brown 55
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The pain ended, and consciousness fled; now it was coming back. Derek thought he must be in the next world, and the fact that he was thinking suggested he was right. It was time to look around and discover where he was. He opened his eyes.
Rather, he thought he opened his eyes. In the darkness, he could not tell whether they were open or closed. It suddenly occurred to him that he could not feel whether he had eyes. He tried to touch his hands to his face, but his arms did not respond; he tried to sit, but found that he did not move. He seemed completely helpless.
Don't panic, he thought. Back up. Figure out what you know. He tried to listen, but heard nothing. He smelled nothing, not even the sensation of air on his nose. What could he feel?
He felt as if he were floating, as he had been floating in space, but floating in a world that was warm and dark, weightless and without strain to any part of his body. He couldn't feel where his body began or ended; it seemed part of the world around it.
Perhaps I am dead, he thought, and have become one with the cosmic universe. It immediately occurred to him that his experience suggested there was no one cosmic universe; he would have to revise that to cosmic multiverse. It then struck him that if he truly had become one with the multiverse, he probably would no longer have the sense of individual thought. Philosophy had not been one of the fields he studied, though, so he didn't know for certain whether such oneness would be more like being alone or more like being with a lot of other people, or more like not being at all, or like something completely unimaginable.
This was not quite unimaginable. It was like being alone, yet safe. He didn't fully understand it, but at least he could describe it.
Maybe Raeph rescued us in time, he thought. We were blacking out; how long would we have survived? He remembered seeing pictures years ago of huge saline tanks in some of the medical texts at which he had glanced in his search for obscure information about computerized systems. Severely damaged bodies were in some worlds mended by floating in these isolation tanks while chemical infusions accelerated the natural healing processes. That might be the current situation; his body was so badly damaged it was not yet responsive to his mind, but it was healing, restoring itself, and he would awaken to find Raeph's people working on him, and the habitat ready to thank them for what they had done.
It was a guess; at the moment, though, it was the best guess he had. He didn't know why it was dark, but if his eyes were regrowing, it would be dark. Perhaps there was a way to test it. He did, after all, know how to read minds. If he could reach out with his mind, perhaps he could find another mind which could tell him where he was. It was worth a try.
It wasn't going to work. He had never tried to read the mind of someone he couldn't see. But perhaps he could read a mind he had read before, if it was nearby. Joe? Lauren? Raeph? Those minds he had read. He looked for them, but could not find them. There could be a lot of explanations for that. He would try again later. But maybe if he just tried random directions, he might find someone by accident. He tried a few; the effort was tiring. It had not occurred to him that thought would be so difficult at times. He rested; perhaps he fell asleep–there was no way to tell how much time had passed, but for his own thoughts. He hunted around again. Still no Lauren, still no Joe, still no Raeph–but there was someone. There was a mind not far, but he couldn't make sense of it.
It was thinking about gathering berries in the woods for supper.
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 #148: Characters Succeed. 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: