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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 36: Hastings 146
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Previous chapter: Chapter 35: Beam 9
Doctor Conway was back on the question of when and where she was born.
“I know that you’re uncomfortable about your age, but I’m a doctor, and I have reasons for wanting to know. For one thing, we’re having a hard time identifying you, finding insurance coverage, notifying family. Surely you want your family to know you’re all right?”
“Yeah, good luck with that,” Lauren muttered.
“No need to be.”
“No, I mean, I didn’t hear what you said.”
“That’s all right; I wasn’t really talking to you.”
The doctor paused, recollected his thoughts, and continued. “So, when were you born?”
Lauren puzzled for a moment, then took a deep breath, then began. “Let’s take a flight of imagination. Suppose for a moment that this is not the only universe. Maybe there are two universes, maybe twenty, maybe thousands.”
“This again? That’s a bit silly. In what sense would it be a ‘universe’ if there were more than one?”
“Have you ever read or heard or watched a story? A novel or a play or something? Fiction, I mean. Something like, who was it, Mary and her gopher hole?”
“And there is a sense in which the events in the story never really happened, at least, not in this universe.”
“Yet there is a sense in which they did happen, in some imaginary universe.”
“That may be stretching the sense of the word ‘happened’, but alright.”
“So then, this other universe exists, the fictional one, in which these fictional events happened, in which those fictional people live. And they have real existence because they really live in a fictional world.”
“I don’t think you can say that fictional people really live, even in a fictional world. It’s fiction. We understand from the outset that none of it ever actually happened.”
“But what if it did? What if there were another kind of other world, another universe, what we might call another dimension, a world that exists parallel to this one, with some things the same and some things different.”
“I can imagine such a thing, but the fact that I am imagining it makes it fictional.”
“No it doesn’t. I’m sure you can imagine your home while you’re here at work, but that does not mean your home doesn’t exist. We can imagine real things, hold them in our imaginations. We can even imagine real people doing things that they never did, but that does not make the people less real.”
“O.K., so the fact that I am imagining this other reality does not make it fictional. But it doesn’t make it real, either.”
“No, or course not. But it could be real. It could be entirely possible that someone was born in that other universe, grew up there, and then accidentally moved from that universe to this one.”
“That’s a bit of a stretch. Just because there might be another universe doesn’t mean the people in it would be anything like us, or that they could leave their universe and come here.”
Don’t you people have any science fiction? Lauren wondered, but she kept at it. “Yet it doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a universe with people like you, or that someone couldn’t come from that universe to this one, either intentionally or by accident. If they were enough like you, you wouldn’t recognize that they weren’t from here.”
“Is this going somewhere?”
“So it is not impossible that someone could have been born in another universe, and grown up there for decades, but then accidentally fell through a crack or somehow left her universe, and arrived in your world, in your lobby, on the evening of June 6th, 1965, having no existence in your universe prior to that moment.”
“Are you telling me that you believe you came from another universe?”
“Oh, goodness, no. If I told you that you would conclude that I was crazy, and probably lock me up for a thousand years. I only want you to consider the possibility that I’m not telling you the date of my birth because it wouldn’t make sense to you, that there are possible explanations for my presence and my existence that you haven’t considered. I could have been part of a time travel experiment that went wrong, but can’t tell you about it for fear of contaminating the history of the future I came from. I could have been abducted by aliens and returned to a place and time in which I am completely forgotten. You want a normal explanation for who I am. I want you to accept that there might not be a normal explanation, and that you wouldn’t believe the truth were I to tell you. In short, I’m not giving you my date of birth because I don’t want you asking the questions it would raise. Live with it.”
The doctor met her stare, but she held it defiantly. He said, “Remember that we talked about reasonable doubt? You have a fascinating story, but you must know that it can’t be true. No reasonable person would believe it.
The two continued to stare at each other. Finally he broke away and changed the subject. “We were talking about your weapons.”
She shrugged. “What about them?”
He stood. “I can see that you’re not in the mood to discuss anything at the moment. I’ll come back another time.” He took the chair with him as he left the room.
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 #280: Versers Reveal. 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: