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Stories from the Verse
Con Verse Lea
Chapter 5: Hastings 234
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Beam 119
The food spell had not worked.
Doubt had started nagging at Lauren since before she opened the door. The door prayer worked; God had not forsaken them. However, she had counted on that food spell bringing them a feast, perhaps summoning delivery robots laden with breakfast. It had failed.
She had never tried to use it to feed so many people; maybe that was the problem. No, she thought, God would not be limited by numbers. She knew her magic failed sometimes, even botched sometimes.
She also knew that in every world some things worked and others didn’t. That prayer normally created something from nothing, food ex nihilo. Creation ex nihilo was definitely among the most challenging magics, something God did but men and angels rarely duplicated. Of course, in the vampire world she had done it frequently--but in a world in which vampires prowled the nights and attempted to conquer the world, magic was powerfully abundant. Maybe she had just failed this time; maybe food creation was not something she could do here.
Which raised the question of what she could do, and what she should do. If God wasn’t going to let her create food for her multitude, she was going to have to think of something else. There were mouths to feed.
She grabbed the tongue of her wagon and headed for the still open door through which the people were exiting--slowly, cautiously, obviously filled with wonder by their first look at the sunlit world which had ceased even to be a legend in the caverns in which their homes had been built. She followed at a slow pace, and squinted in the sunlight as she emerged, adjusting to the brightness after so many weeks, perhaps months, of travel through tunnels underground.
Assuming God had brought them here--well, that was an assumption, wasn’t it? After all, it had not been something God had directed her to do. It was James Beam’s idea. He believed that the computer that provided everything from food and water to recirculated air was starting to make mistakes, and would become progressively more dangerous until it began killing people. Tommy had checked a few things and thought he was probably right. His solution had been to get the people out of the caves and into the world above--but he was certainly not a believer. As prophets go, he was a poor example.
Of course, great prophets were often poor examples. Moses himself had been wanted for murder. David it seemed never met a woman he wouldn’t marry, even if she was already married to someone else. And don’t get started on Samson. But those men all trusted God. Beam was actively agnostic, at best. Still, God used unbelieving kings in ancient times to perform His work for Israel. It was entirely possible that God had sent these people to Mister Beam so that he, or He, could deliver them.
That meant God was not going to let them starve. It might take work, but they would find food before they were desperate.
She stepped through the doorway and looked around. A couple roads converged here, which made sense since this was clearly an entrance to the civilized world below, and the food came from the world above. However, between the roads were fields, green fields. She had assumed grass, but this was not grass.
She walked to the left side of the road. People were milling about, mostly looking at the sky. None of them had ever seen it. Indeed, none had ever been in a place where they could see across miles of open space. The concept itself had to be new to them. But Lauren was more interested in the ground. She dropped the wagon tongue, and called Tommy, who appeared in a moment.
“I think,” Lauren said, “that this is baby spinach. What do you think?”
The girl shrugged. “Looks like it to me. I’ve never been on a farm, though, so I’m going by what it looks like in salads.”
That was a problem. Lauren had grown up near the country, and spent many hours on farms, but they were always horse farms, not places that produced food. “Well, I guess there’s only one thing to do.” She plucked one of the leaves and ate it. “It’s as much like spinach as anything I’ve ever had,” she said. “I’d say we can eat it. But--” she walked across the road to the next field, where vines were growing supported by low poles. “These look like pea pods, baby peas.”
Tommy agreed again. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” Lauren said, and tasted one of them as well. “I don’t know enough to know whether these were expected to grow into full-sized peas, but I think we can eat these pods as well. And over there--” She pointed down along the front of the garage; a road ran that direction, and she followed it perhaps fifty yards. “Broccoli,” she said. “Rather obviously.”
God had indeed provided food. A hundred people could live for several days on this feast, maybe several weeks.
“Varlax! Gram! Torin!”
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 #460: Versers Reorganize. 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: