Like Lewis’s dragon I showed you my scales
I hung my head while my leathery wings drooped
You were solemn
“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
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 were solemn.