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The Lizard of Lust


Here is one of my favorite pieces from all of C. S. Lewis' work. It is taken from The Great Divorce....
I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. “Shut up, I tell you!” he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then be turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.
“Off so soon?” said a voice.
The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.
“Yes. I’m off,” said the Ghost. “Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap,” (here he indicated the lizard), “that he’d have to be quiet if he came--which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.”
"Would you like me to make him quiet?” said the flaming Spirit--an angel, as I now understood.
“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.
“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.
“Oh--ah--look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost, retreating.
“Don’t you want him killed?”
“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”
“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. “Shall I kill it?”
“Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here--well, it’s so damned embarrassing.”
“May I kill it?”
“Well, there’s time to discuss that later.”
“There is no time. May I kill it?”
“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please--really--don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”
“May I kill it?”
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”
“The gradual process is of no use at all.”
“Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day. It would be silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.”
“There is no other day. All days are present now.”
“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”
“It is not so.”
“Why, you’re hurting me now.”
“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”
“Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.”
“This moment contains all moments.”
“Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me–before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.”
“I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?”
The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.
“Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams–all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent….”
“Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.
“I know it will kill me.”
“It won’t. But supposing it did?”
“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”
“Then I may?”
“Damn and blast you! Go on can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”
Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.
“Ow! That’s done for me,” gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.
For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialised while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man–an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.
The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I well knew what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.
(C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, London: Geoffrey Bles, 1945, pp. 89-94.)

Comments

K. L. Johnson said…
Hello, Sir Vaus,

My name is Katie. I was googling information meant to inspire some writing of my own--sitting here with Jack just behind me, well, he is smoking his pipe...only in a photograph I've placed of him and others within my humble library's wardrobe--your blog did offer me just such inspiration as I was seeking.

I have recently submitted a paper to Oxford for publication consideration in their Journal, "Mind." It is one paper among very, very few, which IS NOT seeking to dissolve the marriage between philosophy and religion--rather it is attempting to "speak now," rather than, "forever hold its peace."

Anyway--the paper holds the title, "Possible Solution to the Riddle of Morality," and has currently been assigned a reference number, and is under advisement by editor for anonymous peer-refereeing.

It is a solid paper, but not the center of my recent endeavors. I am currently composing--one third complete--a novel wholly inspired by Christ, and largely inspired by Jack Lewis [along with authors he has referred me to over my 2 decade long adventures with this very brave Christian knight]. My novel is called "The Quantum Accident." It tells a story about how two young children are "copied" into a sister universe to our universe, which is named Saiyandria. The children are to fight in WWII, of course--though not in our world, but in our sister world, where it happens to be 1941.

The novel is about a "society of Regents"--[three, of course], of which the only "visible" manifestation is a grand eagle [modeled after the Middle Eastern Snake Eagle]. This society wishes to lift its subjects from the ground of their planet up onto the hovering island of their domain. This Holy Society wishes to create a most astonishing government, where all creatures [who consent] shall reign co-regently with this Holy Society.

However, they are allowing the waters to grow more and more bitter upon the planet, Delcimer, so, with only three days until "the day after all time ends," Zayin--the Eagle--announces that the creatures must put the waters right [which have become poisoned/bitter by resentment between creatures and races of creatures].

Anyway--I wrote to reach out. I cannot write this alone. As I write, more and more--I realize, I cannot be writing this stuff...something else is moving me.

I have some shoddy rough draft samples in audio format over at http://quantumaccident.wordpress.com

You can also visit my website, Just Another Inkling, at www.thegreatknock.com
this site is a hodge-podge, with some of my essays, addresses, and arguments with our non-believing opponents in this war we are fighting that is "not against flesh and blood..."

I hope you don't mind, I am subscribing to your site. I thank you for reading my comment, and wish you well. Contact me anytime, and perhaps we can have a "cyber-walk-and-talk" as they did upon university campuses, in the good old days?!

K. L. Johnson
Will Vaus said…
Greetings Lady Kate!

So glad to make your acquaintance. I'm happy that my blog has offered you inspiration--which is one of its purposes.

I hope your paper is accepted by the Oxford journal as you have taken on a very important topic.

Your novel sounds quite creative. I imagine you would have been rather at home in the context of an Inklings meeting, other than the fact that you would have been the only woman there. Ah well.

I too have written a novel, for children, as yet unpublished, but also inspired by Jack and my time living with his step-son in Ireland.

Blessings,
Will
K. L. Johnson said…
Well, barring the fact that I am female--I think I would have fit in just fine with all of you. You had lived with Jack's step son, in Ireland? Well, I greatly envy you...with a good natured sort of envy.
I would love for your book to become published. I wish to read it. I also wish I had my own literary "Inklings." Believe me, I have posted and re-posted on Craigslist, attempting to get such a group started. I have even offered to initiate setting things up, such as where to meet...or, when, if meeting in the cyber-world...
I have had 2 people respond by telling me what fans they are of Jack's work, but none who wish to get together and hash out their own work...
Well, I suppose Jack was correct. You just cannot go around looking about for "Joy." You must turn round and get back to minding your post; you must suffer "Joy" to sneak up and surprise you, one day!
Take care. I will keep my eyes posted for a children's novel by Will Vaus.
Will Vaus said…
You are quite right about Joy. And yes, it is hard to find or develop a writer's group to share one's works in progress--at least it is difficult to find or create one that suits one's particular tastes. Lewis and Tolkien were lucky to find each other within the shared context of Oxford. But then, as Lewis says, there is a Master of Ceremonies behind the scenes putting friends together.

Blessings,
Will

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