From C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce:

I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried… a little red lizard [on his shoulder], and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear… Then he turned and started to limp westward…

“Off so soon?” said [an angel]…

“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 realize 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…

“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 will anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, who 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 a moment I was only thinking about silencing it up 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 today. 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 in 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 only be 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 soemtimes 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.

See, like, I’m the Ghost, making every excuse, because I’m not sure I can live without the Lizard on my shoulder. He’s been there so long, you know, and sometimes he was all the comfort I had.

“May I kill it?”

… …

Advertisements