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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 22: Takano 4
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Tommy fell asleep under a wool blanket on a couch watching the fire, and wondering whether this was at all like a dream. Fleeblegar had said that he wasn’t sure the main room wouldn’t be drafty at night, never having slept there himself, but he had the extra blanket for the winter nights and could certainly spare it. It smelled a bit like a goat, but then the entire cave smelled a bit like a goat, which only made sense given her host.
Breakfast was again bread and cheese. Fleeblegar offered her a salad of fresh dandelion greens and wild scallion, but she honestly said she was not certain whether humans could eat those and didn’t want to risk it. While she ate she pondered the fact that she did not dream she was asleep--that is, her memories had her lying on the couch looking at the fire and then being awakened by the movement of her host in the room which had some daylight and fresh air from the open door and a similar high window she had not noticed the night before. She didn’t know but at least suspected that were she to dream she were sleeping she would have seen herself lying on the couch, and that never happened. They rested briefly after breakfast, Fleeblegar not wanting to begin their “stroll” until their food had “settled”.
The “stroll” to visit the centaur seemed interminably long, and Fleeblegar’s assurances that it was “only a few miles” only caused Tommy to think that he had a very poor conception of just how far a mile was. Although with both her phone and her tablet shut off to preserve power she had no way of knowing time, she felt like they were walking for several hours before they reached an open field with a primitive shelter at one end and several rather frightening creatures standing in it--horses, by the body, but again with the torso, head, arms, and hands of men and women. They all wore simple knit shirts, which to Tommy only accentuated the fact that the rest of their bodies, although covered by hair, were naked. Some were bending down to eat grass, which confused the image in her mind even further.
One of the beasts noticed them, and called while approaching at a walk.
“Fleeblegar! What brings you to us, and who have you brought? A witch?”
“She says not, Lancer. Her name is Tommy, and she says she is a girl. She comes from somewhere called Dell Ware, and I hoped you might help her find her way home.”
The creature rubbed its chin with its right hand. “Dell Wear?” it repeated. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it.”
“Actually, it’s Del-A-ware” Tommy said, accenting the second syllable. “I think it’s an Indian name, that is, a Native American word, but I don’t know what it means.”
“Well,” Lancer said, “a dell is a valley, and many creatures prefer to live in valleys; frequently there are streams or even rivers and lakes in them. There are many valleys in the world, and it is not surprising that I do not know them all. ‘Ware’ of course has many meanings, and ‘aware’ is connected only loosely to one of them. What is it near?”
Tommy did not have much hope of Lancer being able to help her get home, but she gave the best answer she could. “It’s kind of sandwiched between Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey? It has shores on the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, in the middle of the east coast of the United States.”
Lancer appeared to ponder for a moment, then shook his head. “No, sorry. I don’t know any of those places.”
Tommy could not say she was disappointed, because she hadn’t expected him to know anything. After all, it was a dream, and she was dreaming of a place that didn’t exist, so it only made sense that the people in the dream wouldn’t know the places that did exist. Still, it meant she had exhausted the only path she could find, and didn’t know what to do next.
Lancer must have seen this in her face, because he then added, “I can ask around, although it may be that we have to talk to the eagles. They have been more places than we have.”
That gave her some hope. There were some eagles still in Delaware, and since eagles could fly, they might--what, they might what? They might travel between the real world and the world of her dream? Not likely. Still, what else could she do? “How--how do we talk to the eagles?” she asked, and as soon as she had said it she realized how ridiculous it sounded. You couldn’t talk with eagles; they were birds, animals. They had neither the brains nor the mouthparts for conversation. It was one thing to talk with these creatures that had the heads of people, because one expected that anything with a person’s head would have a person’s brain and the ability to speak human languages. It was, she realized, a bit of a surprise that they spoke her language, given the number of human languages in the world, but that was just one more reason to suppose this was a dream.
However, Lancer was answering her. “I’m afraid we would have to wait for one to fly over, and hope first that we see him and second that if we wave our arms and shout he would notice us. They have keen eyesight, but we are not easy to see from their vantage.”
Tommy nodded thoughtfully. “So,” she said, “in the meantime, where do I stay, and what do I eat?”
“Yes, indeed, those are problems. I don’t suppose you eat grass?”
“She apparently does not, and did not think she could eat dandelions or scallions, either.”
“That does complicate things. Do you eat oats?”
She immediately thought of oatmeal, which was far down the list of her favorite breakfasts despite the effort her mother put into making it. Still, she was going to have to eat something besides bread and cheese, and there were worse things to eat.
“I’ve had oatmeal--that is, cooked oats.”
“Cooked? What, like warm mash?”
“I don’t know. I actually don’t know how it’s made, I just know that it starts with oats and they’re cooked in water. I think they swell, and get soft. I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten oats that aren’t cooked, although I’ve had oat bread and oatmeal cookies.”
“Well, then, at least oats aren’t going to kill you. You can stay with us in the lean-to if you like, and that way if we do catch the eye of an eagle you’ll be here.”
A lean-to sounded even less comfortable than a couch in a cave, but again it was the best option for finding her way home, apart from the possibility that she might just wake up. She tried to remember her manners.
“That’s very kind of you. Thank you,” she said, wondering what oats would be like.
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 #323: Verser Crises. 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: