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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 113: Slade 204
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 212
Slade and Shella were relaxing on their bed late in the afternoon. Suddenly he opened his eyes, sat up, and looked at his wife, who had also sat up and looked at him. Together they said, “Someone’s here!”
Slade put on his boots, Shella donned a better robe, and they headed for the door.
“Of course,” he said, “there’s no way to know how far he is, or indeed who. We might be starting a fool’s errand.”
“I hope it’s Lauren,” she said.
“I hope it’s not Beam,” he replied.
They both stopped a moment, looked at each other, then said together, “It’s not Beam.”
Well, they could hope.
They resumed a brisk walk in the direction of the sense. It was headed toward the student housing.
In a few minutes they entered the wide green lawn between the multi-story dormitories, and saw two figures, one face down on the grass, the other, though, sitting up and recognizable.
“Zeke!” Shella called, and Slade echoed immediately.
The camouflage clad soldier looked over. “Slade? Shella? Where am I?”
“I suppose it’s not easy to explain,” Slade began.
“What do you mean? Of course it is. This is that world with the parakeet people where Bob met Joe and Lauren, only it’s a lot later and they’re starting to invent a lot of technology. Bob’s been helping them.”
“No dope?” Zeke answered. “Weird.”
“Congratulations,” Slade said. “You’ve versed in here; you’re clearly a verser.”
“Yeah, that hurt,” he said. “Not the versing, I think, but I could do without the part about getting hacked to bits with a sword.”
By now they were together on the lawn, and Slade turned toward Joe. “What’s his problem?” he asked.
“His wife was just killed.”
“Wife?!?” the couple asked together.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot, you were gone. Short story, Amira Leah’s brother approached and asked if he would marry her, and he agreed, and they’ve been married for, well, I’ve lost count, but probably about two months. But he was asked to lead infantry to a place where there was going to be a war, and we went with him, and we were ambushed, and she was killed. I was killed probably seconds later, so I don’t know what happened after that, but apparently he was killed, too, since he’s here.”
“Well,” Slade said, “I guess we’d better see if he’s all right. You’re all right, yes?”
“Yeah, it’s weird. It hurt a lot, and then I was here, and the pain just passed immediately.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. You get used to it, I guess, but it still hurts a lot.”
They walked over to Kondor. Zeke spotted the soldier’s dropped rifle, and scooped it up. Slade nudged Joe with his boot.
“Joe?” he began. “Are you all right.”
“She’s dead!” he wailed. “I was right there, but I couldn’t save her. I didn’t even know I could love someone like that, like we--and now I’ve lost her forever.”
Slade had lost someone once--Shella’s uncle, Filp, perhaps his best friend ever. But it was different for him. For one thing, it wasn’t like he lost Shella. For another, he knew that Filp was still somewhere in the supernatural realms, and he might actually find him again. Joe had lost someone much dearer to him, and did not believe that there were supernatural realms, so he had no hope of finding her again. Slade knew better than to suggest it.
Apparently, though, Zeke did not. “Well, if we ever do just die,” he said, “I’m sure she’ll be waiting for you on the other side.”
“That’s nonsense,” Joe replied. “I was hallucinating nonsense like that when I died.”
“What do you mean?” Shella asked.
He rose to his knees, and started to stand. “I had emptied my pistol into the b--” Joe never swore, and dropped the word, then continued. “So they descended on me with those curved swords.”
“Scimitars?” Bob interrupted.
“Khopesh, I think,” Kondor replied, then continued. “So I died. This time I was awake, surrounded by mist, something like when we travel those gates to other places. Then she was standing in front of me. She told me she was all right, and that I was wrong about the gods, that there was a spirit world. Obviously my grief was too much, and I was hallucinating. And then I was here.”
Slade raised his eyebrows and looked at Shella. She said what he was thinking.
“How can you be sure it wasn’t Leah?”
“Because there are no ghosts, no spirits, nothing like that.”
“Didn’t Derek fight some kind of ghost--a poltergeist, I think they called it?”
“Derek fought some invisible creature that threw things at him and hurled him out a window. The rest of that story I attribute to fancy and fear. Just because it was invisible doesn’t mean it was the spirit of an undead person.”
“You know,” Zeke said, “you keep saying that you don’t believe in the supernatural because there’s no evidence for it. But it seems to me that Derek’s story about the poltergeist, and Bob’s visit to the palace of a djinni, and now your visit from Leah are all evidence for the supernatural--not to mention all the magic Lauren does, and which she has taught me. So I guess it’s easy to say that there’s no evidence for the existence of the supernatural if you’re going to tell yourself that anything that might be evidence didn’t happen.”
“He’s got you there,” Slade said.
Kondor didn’t answer. Slade guessed that this was not the time for debate.
“Well, come get cleaned up. We’ve got the only hot shower in the world.”
“What? How is that possible?”
“I invented it, and insisted that it be installed in our house.”
“You invented the hot shower?”
“I invented a lot of things. Hot running water and showers is just one of them. I’m currently working on revolvers and automatic weapons; you’re just in time to help with that.”
“So what is this world?”
This time Zeke answered. “It’s that parakeet world you visited before, only they’re in the midst of some kind of technological spurt.”
“An industrial revolution,” Slade suggested.
Kondor nodded. “There aren’t any statues of us, are there?” he asked. Remembering Kondor’s experience returning to the museum in the world where he had been a legendary hero, Slade laughed.
“No, but there are some etchings on some ancient pottery that they think is supposed to be you.”
“Great. There are no gods, and here I am one.”
“This way, your lordship,” Slade teased, and started back toward their home.
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 #452: Versers Ready. 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: