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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 71: Takano 36
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Hastings 209
“It’s good to see you again,” Johnny said to Tommy as she came backstage.
“Well, it’s good to see you, too,” she answered. “Just to talk with someone from back home--I feel like I can let my guard down.”
“I know what you mean,” he said. “It’s so easy to say something that makes no sense to the people around you. But I hear a ‘but’ in that.”
“Sort of. I gave a lot of thought to what you said, and realized that I really was living as if this were a dream, and I don’t know for sure that it isn’t, but I’ve tried to change that. I’ve used my money to buy camping gear, because I figure I’m bound to wind up somewhere where I’m going to need it again, but I can’t help thinking that there are things I’m going to need that I’m not recognizing.”
“That certainly happens to all of us, and I guess the stupid question would be, what do you think you haven’t thought of?”
“Yeah, that would be a stupid question, wouldn’t it?”
They both laughed.
“Well,” Tommy continued, “I find myself wondering about identification. I’m too young for a driver’s license, but I don’t even have a birth certificate.”
“Mmm. Complicated,” he said. “Of course, you’re,” he closed his eyes again and then opened them, “sixteen, and you look sixteen. You might pass for an old-looking fourteen or a young-looking eighteen or nineteen, but therein lies your problem. Next year you will still look this age, and the year after, and for the next ten years after that. You could easily get a forged birth certificate--it’s early enough that there are still a lot of people your age who had home births whose birth certificates could be made today with a date that long ago on them--but then what do you do with it? Once you’ve gotten yourself a social security card, you’re registered with a specific birthdate, and it’s going to become obvious that you’re not aging. You’ll have the same problem with a driver’s license. It’s not so complicated for me, because people couldn’t guess my age better than maybe ten years plus or minus, so I just had to give myself a date of birth that made me as young as I could imagine persuading anyone I was, and stick to it for twenty years. My driver’s license makes me younger than some would guess, but not unbelievably so, and as the years go by my presumed age becomes more credible, and then eventually people will call me ‘well-preserved’, and at some point I’ll have to disappear and start the process over--assuming I live so long.
“But my best advice for you is to be sixteen, let yourself become seventeen at some point, and then vanish, move somewhere else and tell them you're sixteen, or maybe fifteen or fourteen, and start over.
“I guess,” she said. “I don’t know about being young forever, but apparently that’s my fate, so I’ll have to live with it.
“I’ve noticed something,” she said. “Often when you want to remember something you close your eyes for a moment. Is that something?”
Johnny blushed a bit. “It’s something another verser calls a ‘perfect memory trick’. If you start to learn mind play skills, what some call psionics, one of the first things you learn is how to read minds. This guy came up with this idea that he could read his own mind, and so find information he had learned but couldn’t recall immediately. Once you have the idea and you know how to read minds, it’s really a simple thing to do.”
“So, can you show me?”
“Not, I think, in this world. Those psionic things don’t work very well here. I don’t know any way to show you how to do it if you can’t already read minds. In another world I could use telepathy to show you how it’s done, but even though I can read my own mind and sometimes the minds of others, telepathy doesn’t work here. It’s what someone has called ‘bias’, and I think I told you a little about it, but here it’s working against us.
“So tell me more about the centaur,” Johnny said. “I’ve heard of them, but never met one.” From there they chatted about places they had been until Johnny realized it was late and took the group back across the river to their car for the journey 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 #379: Character Conundrums. 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: