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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 58: Hastings 152
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 57: Slade 145
By the time Doctor Conway returned that afternoon, Lauren was feeling a bit guilty. She was standing by the window, looking at the blurred light which came through it as he brought his chair and sat near her bedside. She spoke first.
“I’m a bit worried about Brack.”
“Your attacker? Don’t worry; he won’t be seeing patients, at least for a while.”
“It’s not that, exactly.” She turned, walked over to the bed, and leaned on the railing, looking across it at the doctor. He waited for her to say something more, so she continued.
“Brack believes that I used some kind of invisible force to stop him.”
“That’s true. It’s a significant part of his delusions.”
She shrugged and turned back toward the window. “Well, perhaps, but if so, it’s a shared delusion: I also believe I used some kind of invisible force to stop him.”
She could hear the surprise in his voice. “Oh? And how do you think you did this?”
She turned back to the doctor, and stared at him directly. “I’m not saying that Brack is not crazy, that he doesn’t need treatment, or that he did not attack me. However, I have suggested before that I came her from another world, and the fact is I have been to several worlds and do have a number of powers that you might think impossible. One of them is that I can create a force wall, using focused thought from my own mind, which I have used against assailants both human and animal in the past. I can’t always get it to work, and I can’t maintain it long, but I used it to stop him last night. So if I’m right, he didn’t imagine that; and if I’m wrong, we both did.”
The doctor seemed very uncertain how to respond, and remained silent while Lauren waited.
“That’s,” he finally said, “that’s very interesting. How long have you been able to do this?”
She laughed and turned away again. She couldn’t remember the first time she’d used it. She could remember using it aboard the spaceship with Derek and Joe to hold the carnivorous lizards at bay, but it was certainly before that, probably when she was fighting vampires in Wandborough with Bethany. Counting by days, that made it maybe one and a half centuries. She was already sounding crazy enough; she wasn’t going to tell him that.
“Long enough,” she said, “that I’ve gotten pretty good at it.”
“So, show me?”
She turned back to glare at him--but then, it was a logical request. After all, she, a patient tentatively listed as delusional, just claimed to be able to do something which should be impossible, and to have done it to defend herself against someone who was now considered delusional largely because he believes that she did it. She shrugged again and nodded.
“Caveats,” she said. “It doesn’t always work. Nothing always works. Ask any gymnast, and he’ll admit that he’s missed a few landings or failed to catch a bar sometimes. Last night I got it to work three times, but it failed me once, too. So there are no guarantees. Also, I’m pretty good with this particular power, but sometimes any of my powers might go wrong, and they can be very dangerous when they do. If I do this, I can’t guarantee your safety, or indeed the safety of anyone in the building. I used the ability last night because I was desperate, and fortunately it worked. I’m not sure I’m comfortable trying to do anything as difficult as create a force wall. In fact, I’m not sure I’m comfortable trying to do anything psionic or supernatural that isn’t strictly necessary. There’s no safety net here. You could be killed.”
“Ah, so you don’t know that you can do it.”
“I’m pretty sure I can do it. I don’t know whether I want to do it. There’s always a risk.”
“I’m willing to take the risk,” he replied.
What was the expression? In for a penny, in for a pound? Well, she was in for the entire royal treasury at this point. “O.K.,” she said. “I guess you’ll have to walk toward me,” and she raised the shield between the doctor and the bed.
He remained seated. “I don’t see anything.”
“We both said it was invisible.”
“Yes, but shouldn’t I see, like, a distortion in the air?”
“I myself am not always certain of its dimensions or edges unless I focus on trying to figure that out. No one can see it; it’s not meant to be seen. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t impede laser fire, although it does stop kinetic blasters. But if you’re not going to walk toward it, I’m wasting effort here. You could throw your pen at it. I’ll catch it if it gets this far.”
The doctor shrugged and tossed his pen in Lauren’s direction.
It bounced off the invisible force wall and landed at his feet.
“Invisible force wall. Are you satisfied?”
He rose to his feet and stepped forward. “How are you doing this?”
“I’m not sure exactly what it is that I am doing,” she noted. “I think it has something to do with causing space to harden in a thin pane so that matter can’t pass through it. But then, that’s probably not really what you want to know. I learned how to do a number of, I guess you could call them tricks, with my mind. This is one of the hardest, but it’s been so useful over the years that I’ve gotten very good at it. I focus on the point where I want the shield, and I pull space together into something solid.
“That probably doesn’t help you much. If you’ve never used any ability that extends your mind beyond your brain, it’s difficult to imagine how that can be done. Even if you’ve done the little things--reading minds, bumping things around telekinetically--adjusting the fabric of space itself is something else again.”
While she was speaking, he rose and reached out toward it. “Is it safe to touch?” he asked.
“I am guessing so. I’ve never touched it, and don’t expect it would hurt me anyway, but I usually only use it in fights, and when I’m fighting I don’t much care whether an attacker is hurt by my defensive shield. But it’s not supposed to hurt just to touch it. Run into it as fast as you can hobble, like Brack did last night, and it might, but not more than running into a brick wall.”
He apparently found it, as he appeared to be running his hand along a smooth hard surface.
“It’s remarkable.” He pushed on it.
“So,” she said, “are you more inclined to believe that I may have come from another universe?”
He stepped back from the shield and picked up his pen before returning to his seat. Lauren dropped the shield.
“You have perhaps proved that one of your impossible claims is true,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean they all are. I have suggested you are delusional, believing you come from another universe. You have demonstrated an ability to create a force wall of some sort by thought. It may be that there is an organic brain disorder of some sort which gives you these telekinetic abilities which also causes you either to hallucinate fantastic places, creatures, and events, or creates false memories of them to replace your true history. What you have given us is a potential explanation for your problem.”
Lauren sighed, and sat on the bed with her back to him.
“So,” she said, “what do we do next?”
“I would say,” the doctor responded, “that it’s time for you to tell me all about the worlds you think you’ve visited. Maybe we can make sense of the psychosis if we unravel the details.”
At least, she thought, Brack isn’t going to be blamed for believing something happened that actually did. We’ll see where this goes from here.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #291: Versers in Action. 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: