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  • Home > C.S.Lewis > Cosmic > Out of the Silent Planet (Page 19)     
  • Out of the Silent Planet(Cosmic #1)(19) by C.S.Lewis
  • "He is saying," Ransom translated, "that he will not stop trying to do all this unless you kill him. And he says that though he doesn't know what will happen to the creatures sprung from us, he wants it to happen very much."

    Weston, who had now finished his statement, looked round instinctively for a chair to sink into. On Earth he usually sank into a chair as the applause began. Finding none - he was not the kind of man to sit on the ground like Devine - he folded his arms and stared with a certain dignity about him.

    "It is well that I have heard you," said Oyarsa. "For though your mind is feebler, your will is less bent than I thought. It is not for yourself that you would do all this."

    "No," said Weston proudly in Malacandrian. "Me die. Man live."

    "Yet you know that these creatures would have to be made quite unlike you before they lived on other worlds."

    "Yes, yes. All new. No one know yet. Strange! Big!"

    "Then it is not the shape of body that you love?"

    "No. Me no care how they shaped."

    "One would think, then, that it is for the mind you care. But that cannot be, or you would love hnau wherever you met it."

    "No care for hnau. Care for man."

    "But if it is neither man's mind, which is as the mind of all other hnau - is not Maleldil maker of them all? - nor his body, which will change - if you care for neither of these, what do you mean by man?"

    This had to be translated to Weston. When he understood it, he replied:

    "Me care for man - care for our race - what man begets -" He had to ask Ransom the words for race and beget.

    "Strange!" said Oyarsa. "You do not love any one of your race - you would have let me kill Ransom. You do not love the mind of your race, nor the body. Any kind of creature will please you if only it is begotten by your kin as they now are. It seems to me, Thick One, that what you really love is no completed creature but the very seed itself: for that is all that is left."

    "Tell him," said Weston when he had been made to understand this, "that I don't pretend to be a metaphysician. I have not come here to chop logic. If he cannot understand - as apparently you can't either - anything so fundamental as a man's loyalty to humanity, I can't make him understand it."

    But Ransom was unable to translate this and the voice of Oyarsa continued:

    "I see now how the lord of the silent world has bent you. There are laws that all hnau know, of pity and straight dealing and shame and the like, and one of these is the love of kindred. He has taught you to break all of them except this one, which is not one of the greatest laws; this one he has bent till it becomes folly and has set it up, thus bent, to be a little, blind Oyarsa in your brain. And now you can do nothing but obey it, though if we ask you why it is a law you can give no other reason for it than for all the other and greater laws which it drives you to disobey. Do you know why he has done this?"

    "Me think no such person - me wise, new man - no believe all that old talk."

    "I will tell you. He has left you this one because a bent hnau can do more evil than a broken one. He has only bent you; but this Thin One who sits on the ground he has broken, for he has left him nothing but greed. He is now only a talking animal and in my world he could do no more evil than an animal. If he were mine I would unmake his body, for the hnau in it is already dead. But if you were mine I would try to cure you. Tell me, Thick One, why did you come here?"

    "Me tell you. Make man live all the time."

    "But are your wise men so ignorant as not to know that Malacandra is older than your own world and nearer its death? Most of it is dead already. My people live only in the handramits; the heat and the water have been more and will be less. Soon now, very soon, I will end my world and give back my people to Maleldil."

    "Me know all that plenty. This only first try. Soon they go on another world."

    "But do you not know that all worlds will die?"

    "Men go jump off each before it deads - on and on, see?"

    "And when all are dead?"

    Weston was silent. After a time Oyarsa spoke again.

    "Do you not ask why my people, whose world is old, have not rather come to yours and taken it long ago."

    "Ho! Ho!" said Weston. "You not know how."

    "You are wrong," said Oyarsa. "Many thousands of thousand years before this, when nothing yet lived on your world, the cold death was coming on my harandra. Then I was in deep trouble, not chiefly for the death of my hnau - Maleldil does not make them long-livers -but for the things which the lord of your world, who was not yet bound, put into their minds.

    He would have made them as your people are now - wise enough to see the death of their kind approaching but not wise enough to endure it. Bent counsels would soon have risen among them. They were well able to have made sky-ships. By me Maleldil stopped them. Some I cured, some I unbodied -"

    "And see what come!" interrupted Weston. "You now very few - shut up in handramits -soon all die."

    "Yes," said Oyarsa, "but one thing we left behind us on the harandra: fear. And with fear, murder and rebellion. The weakest of my people does not fear death. It is the Bent One, the lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil you would have peace."

    Weston writhed in the exasperation born of his desire to speak and his ignorance of the language.

    "Trash! Defeatist trash!" he shouted at Oyarsa in English; then, drawing himself up to his full height, he added in Malacandrian, "You say your Maleldil let all go dead. Other one, Bent One, he fight, jump, live - not all talkee-talkee. Me no care Maleldil. Like Bent One better: me on his side."

    "But do you not see that he never will nor can," began Oyarsa, and then broke off, as if recollecting himself. "But I must learn more of your world from Ransom, and for that I need till night. I will not kill you, not even the thin one, for you are out of my world. Tomorrow you shall go hence again in your ship."

    Devine's face suddenly fell. He began talking rapidly in English.

    "For God's sake, Weston, make him understand. We've been here for months - the Earth is not in opposition now. Tell him it can't be done. He might as well kill us at once."

    "How long will your journey be to Thulcandra?" asked Oyarsa.

    Weston, using Ransom as his interpreter, explained that the journey, in the present position of the two planets, was almost impossible. The distance had.increased by millions of miles.  The angle of their course to the solar rays would be totally different from that which he had counted upon. Even if by a hundredth chance they could hit the Earth, it was almost certain that their supply of oxygen would be exhausted long before they arrived.

    "Tell him to kill us now," he added.

    "All this I know," said Oyarsa. "And if you stay in my world I must kill you: no such creature will I suffer in Malacandra. I know there is small chance of your reaching your world; but small is not the same as none. Between now and the next noon choose which you will take.  In the meantime, tell me this. If you reach it at all, what is the most time you will need?"

    After a prolonged calculation, Weston, in a shaken voice, replied that if they had not made it in ninety days they would never make it, and they would, moreover, be dead of suffocation.

    "Ninety days you shall have," said Oyarsa. "My sorns and pfiflriggi will give you air (we also have that art) and food for ninety days. But they will do something else to your ship. I am not minded that it should return into the heaven if once it reaches Thulcandra. You, Thick One, were not here when I unmade my dead hrossa whom you killed: the Thin One will tell you.  This I can do, as Maleldil has taught me, over a gap of time or a gap of place. Before your sky-ship rises, my sorns will have so dealt with it that on the ninetieth day it will unbody, it will become what you call nothing. If that day finds it in heaven your death will be no bitterer because of this; but do not tarry in your ship if once you touch Thulcandra. Now lead these two away, and do you, my children, go where you will. But I must talk with Ransom."

    Chapter XXI

    ALL THAT afternoon Ransom remained alone answering Oyarsa's questions. I am not allowed to record this conversation, beyond saying that the voice concluded it with the words:

    "You have shown me more wonders than are known in the whole of heaven."

    After that they discussed Ransom's own future. He was given full liberty to remain in Malacandra or to attempt the desperate voyage to Earth. The problem was agonizing to him. In the end he decided to throw in his lot with Weston and Devine.

    "Love of our own kind," he said, "is not the greatest of laws, but you, Oyarsa, have said it is a law. If I cannot live in Thulcandra, it is better for me not to live at all."

    "You have chosen rightly," said Oyarsa. "And I will tell you two things. My people will take all the strange weapons out of the ship, but they will give one to you. And the eldila of deep heaven will be about your ship till it reaches the air of Thulcandra, and often in it. They will not let the other two kill you."

    It had not occurred to Ransom before that this own murder might be one of the first expedients for economizing food and oxygen which would occur to Weston and Devine. He was now astonished at his obtuseness, and thanked Oyarsa for his protective measures. Then the great eldil dismissed him with these words:

    "You are guilty of no evil, Ransom of Thulcandra, except a little fearfulness. For that, the journey you go on is your pain, and perhaps your cure: for you must be either mad or brave before it is ended. But I lay also a command on you; you must watch this Weston and this Devine in Thulcandra if ever you arrive there. They may yet do much evil in, and beyond, your world. From what you have told me, I begin to see that there are eldila who go down into your air, into the very stronghold of the Bent One; your world is not so fast shut as was thought in these parts of heaven. Watch those two bent ones. Be courageous. Fight them. And when you have need, some of our people will help. Maleldil will show them to you. It may even be that you and I shall meet again while you are still in the body; for it is not without the wisdom of Maleldil that we have met now and I have learned so much of your world. It seems to me that this is the beginning of more comings and goings between the heavens and the worlds and between one world and another - though not such as the Thick One hoped. I am allowed to tell you this. The year we are now in - but heavenly years are not as yours - has long been prophesied as a year of stirrings and high changes and the siege of Thulcandra may be near its end. Great things are on foot. If Maleldil does not forbid me, I will not hold aloof from them.  And now, farewell."

    It was through vast crowds of all the Malacandrian species that the three human beings embarked next day on their terrible journey. Weston was pale and haggard from a night of calculations intricate enough to tax any mathematician even if his life did not hang on them.

    Devine was noisy, reckless and a little hysterical. His whole view of Malacandra had been altered overnight by the discovery that the 'natives' had an alcoholic drink, and he had even been trying to teach them to smoke. Only the pfifltriggi had made much of it. He was now consoling himself for an acute headache and the prospect of a lingering death by tormenting Weston. Neither partner was pleased to find that all weapons had been removed from the space-ship, but in other respects everything was as they wished it. At about an hour after noon Ransom took a last, long look at the blue waters, purple forest and remote green walls of the familiar handramit, and followed the other two through the manhole. Before it was closed Weston warned them that they must economize air by absolute stillness. No unnecessary movement must be made during their voyage; even talking must be prohibited.

    "I shall speak only in an emergency," he said.

    "Thank God for that, anyway," was Devine's last shot. Then they screwed themselves in.

    Ransom went at once to the lower side of the sphere, into the chamber which was now most completely upside down, and stretched himself on what would later become its skylight. He was surprised to find that they were already thousands of feet up. The handramit was only a straight purple line across the rose-red surface of the harandra. They were above the junction of two handramits. One of them was doubtless that in which he had lived, the other that which contained Meldilorn. The gully by which he had cut off the corner between the two, on Augray's shoulders, was quite invisible.

    Each minute more handramits came into view - long straight lines, some parallel, some intersecting, some building triangles. The landscape became increasingly geometrical. The waste between the purple lines appeared perfectly flat. The rosy colour of the petrified forests accounted for its tint immediately below him; but to the north and east the great sand deserts of which the sorns had told him were now appearing as illimitable stretches of yellow and ochre.  To the west a huge discoloration began to show. It was an irregular patch of greenish blue that looked as if it were sunk below the level of the surrounding harandra. He concluded it was the forest lowland of the pfifltriggi - or rather one of their forest lowlands, for now similar patches were appearing in all directions, some of them mere blobs at the intersection of handramits, some of vast extent. He became vividly conscious that his knowledge of Malacandra was minute, local, parochial. It was as if a sorn had journeyed forty million miles to the Earth and spent his stay there between Worthing and Brighton. He reflected that he would have very little to show for his amazing voyage if he survived it: a smattering of the language, a few landscapes, some half-understood physics - but where were the statistics, the history, the broad survey of extra-terrestrial conditions, which such a traveller ought to bring back? Those handramits, for example. Seen from the height which the space-ship had now attained, in all their unmistakable geometry, they put to shame his original impression that they were natural valleys. There were gigantic feats of engineering, about which he had learned nothing; feats accomplished, if all were true, before human history began ... before animal history began. Or was that only mythology? He knew it would seem like mythology when he got back to Earth (if he ever got back), but the presence of Oyarsa was still too fresh a memory to allow him any real doubts. It even occurred to him that the distinction between history and mythology might be itself meaningless outside the Earth.

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