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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 5: Kondor 155
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 4: Slade 155
Joseph Wade Kondor realized he was in some sort of state of irrational denial, and had managed to shut down part of his brain in order to deal with the realities around him.
For as long as he could remember, he had been an atheist. He had come to that position long before joining the army--well, it seemed long at the time. He was eighteen years old when he enlisted. He had lived decades since then, although he still appeared to be about twenty, the age at which he first died and became a verser thanks to the scriff with which the army had been experimenting.
His conclusion had been based primarily on two factors. The first was that there was no real credible evidence for the existence of anything supernatural. There were ghost hunters who drummed up odd electromagnetic phenomena in an attempt to prove that there were spirits; there were religious people whose fanaticism caused them to believe in miracles. James Randi’s million dollar prize for proof of anything supernatural had remained unclaimed for a long time. The second factor was that so many things which had for centuries been thought the work of the supernatural had come to have quite ordinary scientific explanations--the motion of the planets, the effects of gravity, the origins of life. Magic, the supernatural, had been all too often demonstrated to be the explanation for what was not understood, and the fact that something was not understood was not proof of anything beyond the limits of our own understanding.
He was presently in a world which presented him with challenges to this repeatedly. In the desert, one of his companions created a protective shelter and conjured food and drink from nothing. He had already come to recognize that some people had psionic abilities enabling them to conform reality to their wishes. Shella, Bob’s wife, insisted that the shelter and the food were not from a power from within herself but were magic, something supernatural. He preferred to believe that she simply didn’t understand how she did it.
Then Derek arrived, a boy Kondor had known before in another world, but now he had the ability to morph into a gargoyle and a sprite. Of course, even Derek claimed that it was not magic but some sort of natural body skill, like an armadillo rolling into a ball. Something in the back of his mind told Kondor that this was an inadequate explanation--the sprite body had to have considerably less mass than the human body, and that mass had to have gone somewhere, and magic was a very tempting explanation if he believed in magic.
Derek and Shella also used some surprising abilities to direct them to the city. Derek’s was not so surprising once you accepted that he could become a sprite (which Kondor had not fully accepted until he had observed it himself), because he did aerial reconnaissance. Shella apparently did some kind of supernatural or, he preferred to think, paranormal clairvoyance, seeing in a mirror what was not visible otherwise.
Then as they reached the gates of the city the guard informed them that they were expected. Kondor was still uncertain whether this was because they had been observed from the watchtowers or because it was what gate guards were instructed to say to anyone who introduced himself as a nobleman, as Slade had.
During their stay, his companions had continued to exhibit unusual abilities. Some of these he had seen them use before, and some he had suspected, but he was building quite a list of paranormal abilities for which his best explanation was that his companions had developed extraordinary mental powers--and at what point did ‘extraordinary mental powers’ become an excuse for that which he did not understand, much as ‘magic’?
Now Lauren had arrived. Lauren not only used quite a variety of mental powers, she had taught him one, the ability to read minds. However, she further insisted that some of her remarkable array of powers were magical, not what she called psionic, drawing power from a supernatural realm. She made a clear distinction between the mental and the supernatural which he had mentally discounted, believing that she was confused, that whatever the difference between the two kinds of skills she used, it had nothing to do with a supernatural power source, or a deity providing answers to prayers. It was all from her; it had to be.
And here he was living in what seemed to be pages from the Arabian Nights, and having dragged his new friend Lieutenant Ezekiel “Zeke” Smith along from the previous world--a sane world in which no one he met believed in magic or psionics or anything outside the natural--and trying to maintain the belief that there is no magic in the face of a world in which it is so commonly believed that world leaders are concerned about being caught in a war between air elementals and fire elementals, the djinn and the efriit. He was maintaining his own sanity by embracing the belief that everyone around him was deluded.
He had to be right. They had to be wrong.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #319: Quiet Worlds. 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: