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Stories from the Verse
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Chapter 47: Takano 28
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As she settled into bed Tommy went over some of the things Johnny Angel had told her, and tried to make sense of it all.
She was never going to die. That wasnít actually what he said, though, was it? She was going to die, many times, as she already had done a few times; she just wouldnít stay dead. That wasnít really all that different, though. She had always been taught that there was life after death--it just wasnít this kind of life, hopping from dimension to dimension.
Dimension hopping--yes, that was what it was like. He hadnít used that word, but it fit. What word had he used? More than once heíd mentioned Ďversersí, as if self-descriptive. She wasnít sure what that meant, other than that it meant him, and her, and apparently that woman she had seen--Lauren something, he said, what was it? Hastings, yes, Lauren Hastings. Well, if she ever saw her again, sheíd know what to call her.
She was never going to grow older. She could foresee that being a problem. After all, eventually people would notice. People joked about people who didnít age, but it was never really true, itís just that they wore it well. She was sixteen. She might pass for a young-looking eighteen or nineteen, but certainly not twenty-one. On the other hand, she could be mistaken for fourteen easily enough. She had said she was sixteen, because thatís how old she was the first time she--well, it didnít really matter, because one day she might be a hundred sixteen and not look a day older.
She wasnít going to have any children. She hadnít really thought about that--at sixteen the idea of having children had not been in the forefront of her mind. She had thought more about finishing college, maybe an engineering degree, maybe a masters in something after that. She hadnít really thought about what sheíd do after that, but at this point it was kind of a foolish question. She wondered whether being childless was going to bother her eventually, but it didnít right now, so she set it aside.
It struck her that some people did well in Hollywood because they looked younger than they were, and wondered whether she might launch a career as an actress. Of course, she couldnít prove her age--even if her I.D. had her birthdate on it (it didnít, because it wasnít that sort of I.D.) it wouldnít make sense in a world in which she wouldnít be born for, what, three and a half decades? She was going to have to get a false identity--probably a birth certificate, and go from there. Maybe she should get it to make her age younger than she was, so that right now she would look old for her age, so that if she were still around in five years she could pass for looking young for her age.
The problem with Hollywood is that it would create images of her, photos and movies and television shows, so there would be a public record of her appearance. Eventually it would create suspicion, as even the youngest-looking actresses looked older over time. Either she would have to retire (hopefully having made enough money to afford to do that) and go into seclusion so no one would see her (and she knew that the rise of technology meant it was going to be harder and harder to stay out of sight), or she was going to have to fake her death and create a new identity.
That of course assumed nothing killed her before that. But then, the mortality rate in a world like this was relatively low. What does that even mean? she wondered. The mortality rate is one hundred percent; itís just a matter of when. But then, here it meant that most people lived to be fairly old, and the probability of dying was relatively low. It happened, certainly--she arrived just in time to see someone not be killed young, saved by the intervention of someone else--but odds were pretty good that everyone she saw tonight would still be alive next week. Even in Philadelphia. People didnít expect to die.
No one expects to die, it struck her, except the terminally ill. Iím going to live forever; I just donít know that I can do it here.
She fell asleep still wondering about these things, and dreamed of journeying through the forest with the satyr Fleeblegar and the centaur Lancer. Although nothing in the dream was itself frightening, she had a sense of foreboding, as if she knew they were headed to meet the witch. It woke her, and for a moment she was uncertain where she was in the darkness, but then recognized the comfortable bed and blankets of the Billingsí spare bedroom, and went back to sleep.
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 #367: Versers Encounter. 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: