The Scales

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Like Lewis’s dragon I showed you my scales

I hung my head while my leathery wings drooped

You were solemn

and warm

and silent

“I see now my sins” I said, and I meant it

Oh, but what I did not see!

I was like a peacock displaying its feathers

“Look upon my wretchedness, oh Lord!”

I was flaunting in a different language

When you called for my claws I tore at my shell with a fervor

The scales fell like rain with my blood and sweat

“I give thee myself!” I cried

When at last I lay, trembling, in a pile and puddle of myself

My eyes were closed and I thought I might dream

A smile caressed my lips

“Thank you” I said

When you did not reply I opened my eyes

What horror!

Though I was ripped and bleeding

Though I lay in a massacre of myself

My scales were unchanged!

As was your countenance

“Save me!” I screamed, “I am spent yet unchanged!”

In my panic I began tearing anew at my flesh

Scars and scabs were reopened

I scraped until I reached bone and lost consciousness

When I awoke the scales remained

Now I lay motionless

The weight of the scales had increased so I could not move

My wings were thick blankets which clung to the pile of scale and blood and bone beneath me

Still you were silent

Your gaze did not waver from mine

“The weight is awful” I said presently

“I feel it” you said 

“Do you bear it as well?” I asked, “I see no scales on you”

“I wear no scales,” said he

I wanted to know what you meant.  I longed to understand how you felt the awful, pressing, oppressive scales while wearing no such garment.  

But I was tired.

“Can you show me?” Was all I could muster

When first I came to you I thought I had known my evils

Though they were scales they had glinted in the light

“The scales are armor” you said as you began ripping and tearing, “They are evil, but only because they pretend to protect you.  

“They have whispered in your ear about their necessity.  Not only to shelter you, but also to present to me as an offering.”

Here you paused, trembling with a rage.  

“I need no offering.” You said, “I need nothing of you–Not even yourself!  What I singularly desire is to see the scales removed; to reveal the pussing, rotting flesh beneath!  I wish to show you the lies you have spun for yourself.  Not so you can see them as lies, but so you can see the true disease beneath!  Only then can your wounds be treated.”

He began again to rip great chunks of flesh and scale from my frame.  And truly, to my absolute terror, what laid beneath was not soft, healthy skin.

It was wet.

It was green.

It was yellow.

It was deep red.

It moved and squirmed. 

It was covered in mouths that moved incessantly, all with a wailing, screeching howl

“What is it?” I asked over the noise.

“It is the evil beneath evil,” You said, “It hides under catechisms and baptisms.  It lays in wait beneath yamakas and altars.  It sets traps below the teachings of buddah and the threads of prayer mats.  It lives behind the wailing wall.  It grows on the minds of fathers who call their children ungrateful and in the hearts of mothers who think themselves neglected.  It is in the eye of every wounded man and every tortured woman.  It seeks the scales like a salve: a temporary covering to attempt to heal the wound.  But all it does is provide darkness for the infection to fester.”

“But what is it?” I asked.

“It is pain.” said he.  “Pain that has not been given the medicine of love”

“None have loved me.” I agreed.  The infection writhed vigorously.

“Many have loved you.” he said quickly–almost angrily–watching the infection closely. “Or many have tried.  But it was too long after the pain was given to you.  The armor had grown thick and had already learned to speak.  Its whispers thought to protect your wound by covering it eternally–they only allowed it to take root.  Over time your scales not only shut out the love of others, they also heeded the cries of the pain beneath.  Not as pain and lies, but as truth.  And so your armor that grew to defend you became your traitor.  The scales would have you spurn your children, abuse your lover, and scoff at heroes.  Not because they cannot love, but because they believe pain and lies to be that which I am.

At the utterance of these last words, his voice rattled and shook.  The ground beneath his feet rumbled and shifted.  I looked, and saw the infection writhe and shrivel and shrink and flake away like dead skin.  The pain was greater than any I had inflicted on myself, yet wholly different. 

When it was done, I saw what lay beneath to be smooth, whole skin.  My black, jagged scales had been replaced with polished, shimmering golden armor that could easily and painlessly be lifted to reveal the flesh beneath.  Even my wings were restored – this time with feathers of many colors.

“Thank you,” I said.

You smiled.  

You were solemn.

And warm.

And silent.

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Isaac Golle

Isaac Golle is a husband, father, brother, son, and friend. Everything else is extra. He currently resides in Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada with his wife and two children, where he is focusing on worrying less, trusting more, and laughing lots.

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