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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 42: Beam 69
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Although he pulled the trigger on his revolver while he was still shouting the order to open fire, Beam heard the explosion of Brom’s shotgun and two from Dawn’s rifle before he managed to detonate his own. He was almost unready for the kick, but managed to recover and fire another bullet.
The creatures were fleeing, but that two lay dead and another was retreating more slowly, obviously wounded. Don’t waste bullets on undeserved mercy killings, he reminded himself. It will probably die soon enough.
It then occurred to him that if there were people nearby they probably would have heard that, and if they knew anything about guns they would easily guess that someone was shooting. They’re not likely to mistake it for a car backfiring, at least, not in this world. Maybe there were machines that made similar noises, but in the weeks that they had been here they had not encountered any such thing, so either there weren’t or they didn’t come around here often.
Thinking about what to do next, he took up his pencil and marked the map, including a note on the location of the encounter. Giant rats, he called them, not really caring if they were something else. Probably they were omnivorous; they would almost have to be to survive here.
His mind returned to the fact that they had been eating something when he interrupted them, and so he walked forward slowly to see what that was.
The body was badly mangled and stripped of a considerable amount of its flesh, but the structure was obviously human. There was clothing, torn and bloodied, and Beam hesitated to touch it. However, he needed to know if there was anything you could learn without being a forensic scientist, so he found the pockets. They were empty, although one had been ripped through suggesting that whatever had been in it had attracted the attention of the rats. So it was carrying food in its pocket.
“What is it?” Sophia asked.
“Stay back,” he said. “It’s gross. It’s the body of a man, partly eaten by the rats.”
He wondered why he thought it was a man, but there was something about the skeletal structure that suggested it. He hadn’t had experience with that, but he at least knew that women had different pelvic structure and other smaller changes. Not that it mattered; if it was a woman, she was still quite dead and disfigured.
The clothing, or what was left of it, was not much different from what he considered modern, but that was not surprising as the clothing in the shops was much the same. Beyond that, he wasn’t inclined to attempt to learn much more--but the brain case appeared to be intact.
“Bob,” he said, but Turbirb’durpa was already standing beside him. “I don’t know if the brains are still good, or for how long this guy has been dead, but help yourself if you think they’re fresh enough. So saying he stood and turned to walk back to the others, hearing the cracking of the skull as his alien friend obtained what for it was the best food available.
“I’ve lost my appetite,” he said. “Let’s head back to the apartment and recover from this, and we’ll order from the deli or something.”
Not awaiting their response, he started retracing their path to get home.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #365: Characters Travel. 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: