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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 50: Brown 70
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Previous chapter: Chapter 49: Slade 63
A few days passed before Derek had the opportunity to try his new abilities on another animal. As it turned out, it was an opportunity missed, but for the better.
He was playing in the small clearing in which he and his mother spent most of their time when he heard a noise in the brush around the edges. Immediately he thought this might be an animal, perhaps a mouse or something, on which he could practice his new skills. He rushed toward it, with a bit of a shuffle and a bit of a hop, hoping to catch enough of a glimpse of whatever it was that he could tune in on its mind before it vanished.
"Don't go far, dear," his mother said. He turned to see her; but she was not looking at him.
"Sometimes, Mom, I think you have eyes in the back of your head."
She laughed. "That's a silly idea. But if you mean that I know what you're up to when I can't see you, I guess sometimes I do."
The animal in the brush got away. The idea did not. Derek began to wonder whether he could develop something like eyes in the back of his head--the ability to see what was happening behind him without looking at it.
His first thought was that his mother didn't actually see him; she probably heard him, and knew what that sound meant. It was easy enough, if you were attentive, to know that someone was moving, and know where they were, by the sound. If he could enhance his ability to recognize these subtle sounds, to sort out what they meant and where they were, he could know a lot more about what was happening around him. That didn't sound too terribly difficult; it was barely a psionic power at all. But he wanted to push it beyond normal limits, to be able to sort out the positions of several sounds at once perhaps, to recognize fainter sounds that commonly weren't heard.
He put a lot of thought into how to do this, and took his time with it. It was the next day before he was ready to dare this step. Closing his eyes, he listened; but he did more than listen. He tried to rearrange the way he listened, the way he heard, so that he was listening to and hearing more than he was before. It was challenging, certainly; but it was also working. In a moment, he knew more about what was going on around him with his eyes closed than he normally knew when they were open. He could hear insects moving in the leaves, branches creaking as they swayed, his mother's wings--things he hadn't realized made sound, now clear as bells.
Could he keep his hearing so attuned, and also see? He opened his eyes. The image of the world came back into focus. Yet it was now a somehow richer image. Everywhere he looked he also heard, knowing things he could not see from the sounds they made.
He couldn't keep it going for long; that would take practice. But he could bring it back again. When he did so, nothing could move around him without telling him. Yet as pleased as he was with this, he realized it was not what he had originally wanted. Certainly he could hear if something or someone moved behind him; but he couldn't know so much about them as he had hoped. What he wanted was to be able actually to see behind himself, to have a sort of panoramic vision that let his mind see what was not in front of his eyes.
There was something about the idea which was absurd. How could you see something that was not in front of your eyes? Yet there was something compelling in the idea, as if this was exactly the sort of thing you did if you had such mental powers. The question was, how did you learn to do them? He didn't have an answer; but he decided to make something up, and see where it got him.
His first effort may have been as silly as the idea itself. He sat in front of the tree trying to convince himself that he could see what was behind him, as if saying it would somehow make it true. At one point he thought it was working; but then a question from his mother (about what he wanted for lunch) startled him to the fact that she wasn't in the picture in his mind, but was most definitely in the scene he should have seen. He decided that he'd lost a day to this approach, and would have to come up with another. He lay awake late into the night trying to think of how you might do it, and then fell asleep dreaming about it, but awoke no more enlightened than he had been.
Still, it was something he wanted to be able to do, and he couldn't see any reason why he shouldn't be able to do it. Lauren had been able to see things which were probably thousands of miles away; he only wanted to see something rather close.
It was later that week that he tried a different approach. This time he studied the tree, and then turned his back to it. Without closing his eyes, he tried to imagine the tree as vividly as he could, as vividly as he had just seen it; and he tried to imagine it as being behind him, tried to imagine that he was looking at it. The picture became clearer gradually, until he could see within it the sort of detail he expected. With a bit of effort, he was able to adjust the image such that as he turned his head, it shifted in the appropriate direction. But there was a difference between imagining the thing and actually seeing it. Being able to completely and accurately imagine what the tree looked like would not tell him who was standing behind him. Was he seeing the tree, or only remembering it?
He looked down (and was pleased that the imagined image suddenly showed sky) and picked up a nut--something which was relatively the size of a baseball to his hand. Straightening up, he studied the image of the tree in his mind, then attempted to throw the nut over his shoulder behind him at the tree. The flying object came into view behind him, and struck the tree--not anywhere near where he had hoped, but he had never thrown a ball behind him before.
Derek smiled. There were undoubtedly many things he was going to be able to do. He began to wonder what he should try next.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #180: Versers Focus. 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: