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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 8: Slade 170
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 174
Although he wasn’t entirely certain of the meaning of the word, Slade wondered whether the scene might be called surreal: two towering aliens emerge from a dormitory, unfolding to their full heights as they pass through the doors, then stroll across campus accompanied by a professor to enter the dining hall, walk through the cafeteria line, and settle at a table in one corner. No one ventured to join them, nor even to sit at the adjacent table, but there were quite a few looks from glances to stares, and quite a bit of twittering, although Slade wasn’t certain how much of it was the ordinary conversations of a college mess hall.
He only wondered about the reaction of the students for a moment. After all, they were gods out of mythology. If Thor or Adonis arrived on campus back home, would people--humans--react any differently? Well, Adonis might be a bad choice--the girls might well fight over seats at his table. But it made the point.
The cafeteria staff--well, some were obviously frightened, but they did their jobs, reassured by the professor that Slade and Shella were his guests. Shella ordered for him. He was not going to be able to do so, given the wealth of new words that came into the language simply to identify different foods, but she knew what he liked and he trusted her judgment. It was apparently fish this night, and Slade remembered that there were no mammals when they last visited, so it was unlikely that he was ever going to see beef or pork here, but there would probably be a greater variety of poultry and seafood. There was also an ample portion of vegetables, not recognizable as such but clearly seeds and leaves and fruits and berries and starches. They had learned to make bread, although he didn’t expect the grains were wheat or rye or anything else familiar to him--it was, after all, an alien world, and it was only by the kindness of the gods that the food was digestible to him, but they had learned during their last visit that they could eat anything the birds could eat here.
He was going to have to learn more of the language this time.
They had been installed in a small apartment--and it was very small, with low ceilings, small rooms, and even small furniture. He would be sleeping on the floor tonight, probably in the living room where there was a bit of space. Still, it was better than camping in the park, and while he had helped Lauren repair the wigwam-like nests during his last visit, he had not learned to build one. Still, he was an auto mechanic; building a wigwam shouldn’t be that difficult. On the other hand, he wasn’t sure whether the wigwam would be more comfortable than the floor of the dormitory.
The kitchen in their apartment had a wood stove and an icebox, no wood and no ice but Shella was told that the porter could provide those on request. There was a brazier in the bedroom, and another in the extra room which apparently was used by some students as a study and by others as a nursery. They had arrived in the late spring, so demand for fires was low and the apartment was warm enough that Slade considered opening the windows. If they did want coals for the brazier and didn’t have a fire in their stove, the porter kept a fire going in the main hall downstairs and could bring coals as needed. They had been introduced to him, again with an untranslatable name, who was a bit nervous meeting them but tried to hide it under an eagerness to please. They were each given a key, one of those old iron keys with the shaft and the notched block at the end which told Slade immediately that he could pick any lock in the place in a few seconds, and were told that the porter had spares if there were a problem, which didn’t make him feel any more confident about the security on the door. He didn’t suppose that anyone would rob a god, but then, someone might want to kill one. That could get messy. Slade always worried that someone trying to kill him would wind up dead, and that the indigs wouldn’t take too kindly to that. He was again reminded that he was very good at killing, but wasn’t very good at not killing--no stunning or incapacitating attacks. Of course, that was true of Joe and of Lauren; Derek was the only verser he knew who could put someone to sleep without harming them. Still, it wasn’t likely that he would learn how to do that here. Maybe he could teach himself a sleeper hold--but then, on whom would he practice?
Finishing dinner, he thanked the professor in his primitive dialect version of their speech, which the professor did understand adequately. He also suggested that he would need to learn a more modern version of the language (it was not easy to figure out how to say “modern” or “language”, but he found a way). The professor admitted that this would be difficult, since there weren’t many people who spoke his more ancient language who could help him, but he supposed it would be worth putting some time into that for the benefit of being able to learn about the past.
Thus he went to bed--or more accurately to floor--that night thinking about what he could do in this world, and managed to get some sleep despite the discomfort of the hard wood floor.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #432: Whole New 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: