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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 119: Hastings 170
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Previous chapter: Chapter 118: Beam 34
She was awakened by her jailer at a time she presumed was early morning.
He was holding a small paper parcel, indicating that she should come take it. She came over, and realized it was some kind of breakfast sandwich--meat and cheese on a soft roll. “Thank you,” she said, but a scowl from him suggested he did not want her to mention it. This was not an authorized meal. She reminded herself of one of the basic rules of wizardry: your reputation is not based as much on what you can do as on what you can get people to believe you can do. She removed the sandwich from the wrapper, giving him the paper so he could dispose of the incriminating evidence. She ate it slowly, not because she was savoring the flavor but because she had not eaten in a few days and did not want to shock her stomach with the sudden food.
“Thank you,” she said, this time as a prayer.
She could have wished for a drink, but she wasn’t going to break another pipe yet. The day might turn any of several directions, but at least she wasn’t facing it on an empty stomach. Finishing the last of the sandwich, having been careful not to drop a single crumb, she settled back on her pallet and closed her eyes. There was nothing to do but wait and pray, and she knew how to do that.
The guard changed, the incoming man asking about the water problems as maintenance people were still working on cleaning up her mess. Lauren didn’t listen to the story; she was sure there would be an official version about aging plumbing leaking, but the fact that she had broken the pipe didn’t seem so much a miracle to her as it did to her jailers. She wondered whether Paul thought of the earthquake in Philippi that broke open the prison in which he and Silas were being kept so they could--but didn’t--walk out freely was as much a miracle as the jailer who would have been executed had they escaped. She dozed.
She was awakened by guards wanting her to come to the bars so they could go through the ritual of removing her from the cell in cuffs. “Has anyone told you today that God loves you?” she asked, but they ignored her. She continued, telling them that God loved them so much He sent His Son Jesus to die for them, to bring them everlasting life.
She wondered whether they had assigned deaf guards to fetch her.
She was brought back to the courtyard. She took it to be the same courtyard, but there was now a structure in the middle which in a moment she recognized as a guillotine. Interesting, she thought. She looked around a bit, and noticed that the cameras were different--they were film cameras, not television cameras. The audience was sparser, packed into a limited area, probably hand-picked and placed there so that it would appear to the viewer of the film that the room was packed, but there were not actually many people here.
The guards walked her over to the guillotine, shifted the cuffs to hold her arms behind her back, and pushed her to her knees. She cooperated, letting them place her neck in the frame and secure the stock over it. It occurred to her that abrupt beheading was considered one of the less painful modes of execution historically--Paul was beheaded rather than being crucified because as a Roman citizen he had that right. Still, she did not want to die today.
The charges were repeated again, with the sentence. When that was finished, she projected her force shield behind her neck.
The blade came down fast and hit it hard, but stopped abruptly about a foot above the stock.
At this point, someone shouted, “Cut,” just as if it were a scene in a movie, and there was a flurry of activity and voices trying to figure out why the blade was suspended in the air above her. She remembered a joke about three men being slated for execution, and the guillotine malfunctioning for the first two, but the third being an engineer telling them that he could see the problem and could fix it for them. She wasn’t going to tell them what stopped the blade. Let them find another way to kill her.
They raised the blade and dropped it again, but her shield was still holding. Finally they undid the stock and removed her. At that point they dropped the blade and it fell cleanly into the slot.
The officer who had overseen the firing squad was now in sight. He was looking at her thoughtfully, tapping a finger against his cheek.
“Take her back,” he said, and she was reconnected to her escort and returned to her cell.
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 #313: Verser Solutions. 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: