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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 58: Brown 72
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Sealed in their winter home with his parents, Derek expected that he would not do much, certainly not much that was new. He could practice reading his parents' minds and talking to them telepathically; but it was better for him to practice talking, getting his mouth fully under his control. There really was no sense to summoning animals; if they could get inside, they would break the walls of the sealed environment. His teeth weren't even hurting at this point.
But he would walk around inside the tree, a seemingly much smaller space than it was last year when he could not stand apart from the walls. Also, his parents encouraged him to do those brief spurts of flight that they did, to keep his wings in shape. His mother could gracefully hover wherever she wished; he found that more than he could manage, but took heart that his father generally rose and alighted, but never hovered. Once again, it was that mysterious difference between girls and boys.
He had not remembered winter being quite as cold last year. Perhaps it was that he spent less time snuggled in the bed; but then, he was snuggled in the bed quite a bit, and was not so warm as he expected. He considered whether his large size meant that he wasn't sandwiched between his parents' warm bodies as completely. His memories of his physics studies reminded him that even if that were true, at his larger size he ought to retain more of his own heat and require less of theirs.
Finally he asked. "Is it colder this year, or am I just not remembering?"
His parents looked at each other. Lelach answered.
"Yes, honey, it is colder this year. It's been a very cold winter, and we're worried about keeping warm enough through it. If it doesn't warm up some, we may not be able to stay well."
It was colder; it was as he thought.
Could he make it warmer?
This thought was met with an overwhelming surge of reasons why he should not try. His father was completely unaware of any of the things he had learned to do; he didn't want to start up concerns again that he was a freak. He had not told his mother even about his efforts to control his pain. These were his secrets. It would be difficult to warm up the room and not let them know he was doing it. Apart from that, he remembered the exploding cereal. If he messed up on this, he could kill them all–and his parents were not versers, so they wouldn't just wake up in another world. No, there were a lot of good reasons why he should not try such a thing.
That night, as he lay chilled between his parents, he realized that his mother was shivering. She had been worried that it was too cold, that they could not keep their home warm enough; and she may have been right. He could not let her shiver. How could he help?
He thought that perhaps the best plan was to make her warmer. After all, he had played with his own body; perhaps he could push up her metabolism, increase her body temperature. This, though, was the point of shivering. Her body was trying to do exactly that as it was. He might give her a fever, but all that would succeed in doing was burn up her energy faster.
He could make himself warmer, increase his own body temperature and radiate the heat outward into her. That idea had a lot to commend it. No one would think much about a child snuggling up to his mother and warming her with his warmth. It would seem the most natural thing. Yet it had much the same downside. He could burn up his own energy; he was not the fat kid he once had been, and did not have massive stores to burn. He might make himself very sick trying to keep her well.
He did not dare warm the leaves and grasses that comprised their bed; never having done this before, he might accidentally set it on fire, and then they would be forced out of the meager warmth they had into the cold of whatever was beyond the door. The tree, too, as a living thing, might be damaged if he tried to heat its wood enough to actually make a difference inside. They had no rocks, nothing really that he could warm.
There was the air. That seemed to be the only thing to do. He knew he could move air, could cause wind and trap steam and move it around. Could he move it around a different way, agitating it until it warmed? A small pocket of hot air would disperse rapidly once released. He might be able to do it, and never let anyone know what he had done.
It was better than freezing to death. It was much better than letting his mother freeze to death. Certainly it was worth a try.
In the dim glow that arose from their sleeping bodies, he focused on a point in space just above them–his first thought was that it was a few feet away, but he quickly realized that it was only perhaps twice as many inches. Hot air rises, he reminded himself; he would have to contain a bubble of air, warm it up, and then draw it down over them like a breeze. That way they would get the full benefit of the warmth, and it would disperse through the interior, warming the surrounding air instead of merely collecting at the ceiling or leaking up into the tree. He began the process.
It required some effort; and he was not at all certain it was working. He couldn't feel the air in the bubble; it didn’t look any different as it warmed (if it was warming). He thought that what he was doing should have the desired effect; but there was no way to know this without bringing it down to them. He certainly did not want to hit them with a blast of frigid wind. He kept at it for quite some time before he finally decided to force the air down over them.
The breeze that struck them was more than warm, more than balmy; it was a hot desert wind, a wind like that blown from an electric hand dryer. It immediately had the desired effect–his mother warmed, and stopped shivering. It dispersed into the cool of the room, and Derek thought it was warmer for his efforts, but he was going to have to find a way to regulate the temperature a bit better. Several breezes that were not so hot would have been better than one superheated one. Had his parents been awake, he would be explaining what he had just done; if he could control the temperature better, it would be just an unexpected pocket of warmer air which no one would question.
It would help him to practice this a bit; it would also help if the air was warmer when he went to sleep, as it would no doubt continue to cool while he slept. So he began to gather and heat another pocket of air. This time, however, he tried something else. He tried to extend his tactile sense, particularly that part of it that sensed hot and cold, beyond himself into the air pocket. He isolated it from other aspects of sensation, such that it wouldn't feel pain or pressure but only temperature. Much as he had been able to see behind his back, he could now feel out in front of him. With this, he could sense the air warming, and release it when it was warm enough but not too hot.
He did it three more times before allowing himself to snuggle back down to sleep. His mother was not shivering; their home was not so cold as it had been; and he had learned two new things which might prove useful in the future.
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 #183: Verser Transitions. 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: