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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 7: Beam 2
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 6: Hastings 138
This way, James Donald Beam, no, STOP, the voice shouted, but it didn’t hurt his ears. It merely froze him in place. In here, the door beside him suddenly was wrenched open, and he glanced inside; only darkness greeted him, but he swallowed his nerve and ducked inside. Wait, the voice cautioned him. Other is here, it said.
A rustling noise echoed within the bowels of the facility. James felt his blood freeze at the sound of it; he knew instinctively that whatever it was that was talking to him, that somehow knew his name, it wasn’t the thing that just moved.
Suddenly the room was bathed in light from a window filling the entire wall to James’s right. A man standing in the adjacent room now visible through the tinted glass removed some kind of optoelectronic device from his face, revealing brown skin and round eyes. Sweat was beading on his forehead, and his skin was turning green. James had the handgun pointed at him, watching the submachine gun in the man’s hands cautiously. He had a feeling, though, that he was looking through a reciprocal mirror, and didn’t fire.
“What is it?” James realized he knew the name of the owner of the voice was Turbirb’durpa. He found that odd, but didn’t have time to mull on it because he suddenly felt very wrong; it was more than the feeling he had been experiencing that gravity wasn’t quite right, sometimes pulling him in the wrong direction or knocking him off balance. It was like something in his being was being twisted in a way that it had never been turned before. The unfamiliar feeling felt grotesque as it emanated from the open ventilation work above the man with the submachine gun. A blurred object wound instantaneously from the duct, then wrapped around the man’s legs faster than the blink of an eye. An obstruction like a moving drop of water on the lens of a camera or a cloud of steam prevented James from seeing clearly as the whip-like protrusion impaled the man through his shoulder. The machine gun blared as he was yanked up into the ventilation shaft, but then the gun went quiet. The lights turned back off.
You don’t see it either, Turbirb’durpa said. Doesn’t matter. Please. Quickly. Quietly. Help me.
James continued onward quickly with few misgivings about the nature of Turbirb’durpa; whatever it was, he felt certain that it was not malicious, just stupid—and useful, considering that it had already somehow saved his life several times. Lead the way, Turbirb’durpa, he thought to himself, and let’s get away from whatever that thing was. He glanced in several rooms as they walked, and saw that most of them looked like they were examination rooms with beds and lights. He wondered if he were in some sort of hospital, and Turbirb’durpa’s voice ahead of him said, Not hospital. Grave.
In here, Turbirb’durpa called, and James ducked into the room the voice emanated from with the .45 caliber at the ready.
Wow, that thing is ugly, James couldn’t help but think as his gaze fell almost immediately on the thing floating in the air twenty feet from the door.
You’re not so handsome yourself. Turbirb’durpa’s voice originated from the pallid-colored, disfigured, smooth skin on what must have been the head of the creature. It looked almost like the exumbrella of a jellyfish, but with two large uvula-shaped lumps hung from the anterior portion; several scars on the face showed where other similar protuberances must once have been. The body was vaguely humanoid, bipedal, and an opaque gray. He was completely naked, but in spite of the lack of any primary sexual characteristics James still was certain he was a male.
James tore his gaze away from the unfamiliar abused-looking creature to look around the room. Several ten-foot deep cells with wide openings were carved into the walls, but the majority of the room was bare with the exception of a computer terminal. “What seems to be the problem, Turbo?” he asked sarcastically after seeing no apparent lock or gate.
You don’t belong here. Turbirb’durpa’s beady front facing eyes were watching James unblinkingly.
“You’re the one that asked me to come here, remember?”
This one wants to go where you belong.
James stopped himself before he lost his cool. He pulled out his pack of cigarettes and lit one. He finally asked, “How do you know my name?”
This one hears thoughts, Turbirb’durpa responded. You can hear mine, too.
“How do I know your name?”
This one told you.
“How are you reading my mind?”
How does James Donald Beam understand the width of a beam of light? James’s mind flushed with feelings he didn’t grasp, but he shut them out.
“It’s really intrusive when you do that,” he explained patiently as a rush from the nicotine calmed his nerves, “but I have to admit it could come in handy for right now.” He took a long drag on his cigarette. “You can tell where everyone is?”
Turbirb’durpa startled as if he had remembered something important, We need the girl, he said, then floated off the ground and gently forward. He stopped himself as he neared the threshold, then continued speaking, This one can’t move. Something blocks the way. James examined the area more closely and found an access panel on the wall for a force shield generator. None see the Other. But this one can tell where it is when it kills, Turbirb’durpa’s voice continued speaking as James pried open the panel with a screwdriver from his duffel bag and tried to hardwire the power, but a failsafe kicked in behind another access. He threw down his tool and smoked his cigarette menacingly as Turbirb’durpa told him, The guard used that. “That” was a computer terminal, and James proceeded to access it. It was all in a language he didn’t understand, but he hit the key he thought might be to accept, then a few more for good measure, and abruptly an electrical hum he had not consciously noticed quieted significantly. James dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his boot as Turbirb’durpa floated out from the space where he had been held captive. We need something, he said to James.
“The girl, right? Let’s get moving then. No matter what happens, stick with me. Okay?” Turbirb’durpa responded in the affirmative, and James Beam headed down the hall after the floating creature with his handgun ready.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #275: Versers Reorient. 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: