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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 19: Beam 5
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 18: Brown 163
James and Dawn walked between the buildings under the dim blue light cast by the Earth above side by side, following Turbirb’durpa’s floating form through the darkness. James felt good about walking under the dome; ever since he had seen whatever it was that had attacked from the ventilation in the ceiling, he had been concerned about attacks from above. Here, he felt that if enemies were to approach them, they would have at least a chance to see them coming.
Onward they walked until they reached an area where the ground sharply gave way into a crater caused by some kind of impact, sheer on this edge but irregular in its shape and circumference. Turbirb’durpa started to float down the ninety degree drop, and James called out to him. “We have to find a way to walk down,” he explained as the misshapen creature returned.
We fly, Turbirb’durpa suggested as an invisible force lifted James’s feet lightly off the ground.
“No, put me down right now,” James struggled futilely against the force that seemed to lift him from everywhere generally and nowhere specifically.
“Yes, down, now!”
Turbirb’durpa complied, moving James and Dawn over the chasm before descending into the darkness. James held his breath and his temper as their elevation dropped and they reentered the corridors. He guessed they must have gone down at least fifteen stories before his feet touched down on solid ground. He immediately turned to Turbirb’durpa. “Never pick me up unless I ask you to specifically,” he scolded the creature menacingly. “Is that clear?”
James is afraid and angry. This one is sorry. James believed him, and he also believed that his boundaries would be respected in the future. James wants pods. This one saw pods. This way, Turbirb’durpa began floating down a corridor in more or less the same direction the three had been heading initially. Not far now.
James decided that his companions, while useful on their own merits, were not wonderful conversationalists. He wasn’t particularly upset by this, however, because he felt that he really needed the silence to try to figure out what was going on with him lately. He remembered the events of the previous day, how he installed the new ScriffInside hard drive into his client’s tower only to have it not power on, so he removed it and tried another hard drive before trying the new one again. After he tried this three times to no avail, he finally gave up and went home for the day. After the frustration of the day, and because he still had some of the glittery yellow pigment on his hands and arms that invariably leaks out when he tried to install anything ScriffInside, he decided to take a bath. He drew it, laid down, and relaxed. He heard his wife storm in some time later as he laid in the tepid water, but didn’t think much of it until she marched into the bathroom. He sat up with a start, first listening as she cried and explained to him how she knew everything about his other lover, then screaming back about how little she knew about all his other lovers. Finally, she threw the new battery-powered ScriffInside toaster in the bathtub. Didn’t she? It was fuzzy, but that was the moment when everything changed; he woke up to the octagonal moon, surrounded by his belongings, and had assumed after being shot by the giant preying mantis’s ray gun that he must have been abducted by aliens. This spaceship would serve to encourage that line of thinking, except that all guards he had come across were clearly human, even though they didn’t speak English.
He was jerked from his introspective thought by Turbirb’durpa’s voice. Pods.
He was indicating around the room the three of them had just entered. Human bodies littered the floor; many of them had been rolled into balls, covered in some kind of epoxy, and stuck in place to the floors, walls, and ceilings. Some had burst open, but the remains inside were certainly not recognizable as human. Others had signs of movement within.
“These aren’t the kind of pods I was talking about,” James began as one of the cocoons burst open, and the creature inside dove for him. Dawn put several bullets in it, and it turned on her; it charged past her as she avoided it, and it fell to the ground as it turned to make another run at her. She approached it where it lay and fired a few more bullets for good measure, but James told her, “Save your ammo.” He also approached and examined it; its insectoid carapace hadn’t offered it much protection from the surgical precision of Dawn’s firearm. Only one bullet was embedded in the shell with the rest having found soft matter. “Nice shooting,” he commented, but as he said the words three more of the pupae popped open near the door through which they had entered.
James instinctively began to run straight ahead as Dawn opened fire. Turbirb’durpa flew along beside him, and he heard Dawn’s footsteps behind. He quickly came to a dead end, then turned back to see at least five of the creatures coming along behind. “Luck, don’t fail me now,” he muttered, then turned the Pyronics 2000 toward the wall and pressed the button. He felt the vibration of the wave more than heard it; as he pressed the button and saw the wall split before his eyes the pressure abruptly dropped and he felt his eardrums blow almost instantly, his eyes seeing empty space and twinkling stars beyond for only a moment before he was blown through the too-small hole.
Intense pain faded to cold numbness. Then he knew nothing.
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 #277: Versers Resettle. 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: