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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 70: Hastings 155
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 69: Slade 147
Over the next few days Lauren’s sessions with Doctor Conway worked through middle school and high school. She remembered singing in the chorus, taking classes in home economics, plus the basic maths, sciences, social studies, and English. She joined the Four-H club mostly to be able to work with horses.
Doctor Conway was completely mystified by the fact that she went to something called Bible College, and she spent several days talking about that one year of her life, which culminated in her discontinuing school at the end of the spring term and marrying her high school boy friend Phil Hastings. The doctor knew nothing about the Bible but that such a book existed and was the basis for an obscure religious group that had once been considerably more widespread and dominant but had since mostly faded into history. Having grown up Baptist, Lauren had been steeped in the Bible from childhood and was able to give detailed accounts of its books, their contents, and the beliefs of Christians.
Getting married meant an entirely new set of details--an apartment, a new house, new neighborhoods, new acquaintances. She recounted details of the births of her three children, some of their baby clothes, milestones like first steps and first words, their first days in school.
She abruptly halted.
“You’re crying,” Doctor Conway said.
“It’s been a very long time,” she explained. “I miss them. I would have liked to have seen them grow up, to have known what happened to them.”
“Why don’t you go back and find out?”
“Someone said you can’t go home again. I don’t know whether that’s always true, but the world from which I came is completely out of reach. You see, when I was thirty-five years old, a microwave oven--”
“I’m sorry, a what?”
“Right, future technology. Someone eventually figures out that you can use high frequency invisible light to excite the molecules in materials of certain densities, and by the nineteen nineties very few kitchens did not have a microwave oven. Anyway, mine was apparently defective, and it exploded, and I died.”
Doctor Conway put down his pen. “You died.”
“I know it sounds crazy, but that’s the best way I explain what happened.”
“Lauren, you obviously didn’t die, because you’re as much alive as I am.”
“I’m not sure I am, doctor. I haven’t aged an hour in maybe a couple centuries. However, I have been given to understand that the ‘ScriffInside’ technology of that relatively new oven used a--I suppose a substance would be the best word, because they say it’s not really matter and not really energy, but something from which quarks are made, and it got into me in the explosion. Somehow it becomes active when I die, such that it takes me to another universe and puts me back together alive. It also connects me to things that are in some sense mine, but I have no clue how that works. It keeps me from aging normally.”
“So, how many times have you died?”
Lauren ticked off worlds on her fingers, Nagaworld, Philadelphia, Parakeet Valley, Camelot, Mutant Earth, Wandborough, Terranova, Tropical Island, Vampire Future--no, she didn’t die that time, she was transported through the edge of heaven--and then here.
“I count nine deaths.”
“And you don’t think it strange that you are the only person this happens to?”
“Oh, I’m not. I’ve met half a dozen or so others going through the same thing, and some of them have told me of others they have met. I don’t think there are a lot of us, but given the vastness of the multiverse there could be billions and I’d only meet a few.”
“And these people you’ve met, did you know them before you died?”
“Not a one. I’ve never met my parents, my children, any of my family.” It occurred to her that she had met Saint Peter, but then he wasn’t a verser and technically wasn’t in any of the worlds she visited, and she didn’t know him save from reading about him before they met, so he didn’t count.
“How did you know they were, whatever you are?”
“Versers? That’s what those I know call ourselves.” She thought a moment. “It has to do with that scriff stuff. Apparently it is attracted to itself in a way that makes it possible for us to sense each other if we’re near enough. If you had another verser in this building I would probably know which direction. I do know that you are storing my stuff,” she paused and relaxed a moment to get a clear sense of the direction, then pointed down and to her right, “that way. Other than the problems of locked doors and finding stairways and such, I could go directly to it.”
The doctor stared at the floor where she pointed, apparently thinking, probably, Lauren thought, about just how accurately she had pointed to their storage lockers. He abruptly shook himself and cleared his throat.
“We’ve gone over time. This has been fascinating indeed,” he said. “Think about whether there’s anything else you want to tell me about those years with your family, and next time maybe we’ll talk about what happened when you died.”
Lauren nodded. Thinking about her family had made her sad again. She had gotten past Phil, she thought, when she was forced to face the vampire a divergent version of him had become, but there were the children. As the doctor left the room, she sat staring into space, not really aware of the time passing until someone disturbed her with supper.
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 #293: Versers Relate. 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: