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Stories from the Verse
Con Verse Lea
Chapter 33: Hastings 241
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Beam 133
It was probably mid-afternoon, by Lauren’s estimate, when Tommy said, “Stop.”
Lauren stopped, and looked at her young companion, but Tommy was staring at the left edge of the road. Lauren followed her stare, and saw the remains of an ancient bit of paved road, worn and cracked and overgrown, trees coming through it in places.
“The map wants us to go that way.”
“Do you think it’s safe?” Tommy asked.
Lauren had no reason to think it was any less safe than the road they had been traveling, but then, Tommy was already nervous about wild animals.
“I’ll scout ahead,” she said. “How much farther are we going?”
Tommy checked her map again. “It says we should be there in two minutes.”
That was not far.
“O.K., you keep an eye on everything, I’ll go ahead and see what’s there, and I’ll come back.”
“What if you don’t come back?”
Lauren laughed. “Have you forgotten that once I walk away from you, you’ll be able to feel that I’m still there? If you think I’ve been gone too long, but I’m still out there, you can decide what to do about it. If I’m not out there, again it’s up to you.”
Tommy nodded, so Lauren grabbed her bow and quiver of hunting arrows, setting one to the string.
“I’ll be back,” she said unnecessarily, and headed down the path.
It clearly had been a driveway, a small road into something which had not been maintained because the robots didn’t travel it. Why that was she wasn’t really prepared to guess, but she continued cautiously. After all, if the robots weren’t maintaining this road, there could be trouble ahead--a collapsed bridge or culvert, perhaps, or a downed tree or bridge or building blocking the road. Of course, Tommy’s worry would be wolves or bears, but Lauren was fairly certain she could put any such carnivores to flight.
Because the ground was hilly the drive wound a bit and rose and fell, and it was uneven underfoot thanks to cracks and potholes. She progressed slowly.
Then ahead the scene changed--not drastically, but there was an openness, fewer trees, more sunlight.
What caught her attention, though, was that in the middle of it, not far, was a large buck. It was grazing on the grasses and undergrowth among the trees, and had not noticed her, still in the shadows of the thicker wood. A beast that size would probably be food for everyone--she’d never hunted deer; the world in which she had learned to hunt had no mammals. But she thought this was something bow hunters targeted back home. Of course, to kill an animal that size with one shot, you would have to hit it in the right place, and that meant you had to know the right place.
She considered it. She didn’t have much time to decide; once it was aware of her, it would almost certainly bolt, and then all she would be able to do was pincushion it and hope it collapsed. But it was turned mostly toward her, and it was reasonable to assume that most mammals had their hearts in their chests to the left of center, as that’s where hers was. She nocked the arrow and raised the bow, sighting carefully.
The buck looked at her. This was it; she loosed the arrow, and it sailed across the space between them, and found its mark. She quickly nocked another arrow as the beast reared, turned--and fell. It kicked its legs a few times, but then was still.
Arrow still on the string, she walked slowly toward it. She nudged it with her foot. Good shot, she thought. Probably you couldn’t do that with the recurves carried by the others, but this was a large animal and they wouldn’t need to kill many large ones, just more smaller ones.
She began to consider her surroundings. She had been so focused on the buck she hadn’t really paid much attention to where she was. Although the undergrowth had covered most of the ground, it was apparent that there were stone circles, campfire spaces, scattered about. This had been a campground of some sort.
Scanning, her eye found something else, something unnatural, a pole standing upright about three feet with an odd top. She walked toward it. As she approached, she realized she was looking at a pipe, with a levered valve and spigot at the top. She pulled the lever up.
There was a rush of air, and some gurgling, and then some sputtering, and finally water, cold, fresh, clear water, gushed from the spout. Using her hands, she cupped some to her face and tasted it. It tasted clean, like mountain spring water.
“Thank you,” she said. God had led them to a place to camp.
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 #463: Characters Unsettled. 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: