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Parallel Readings

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The first few nights, they felt no need to sleep. They were invigorated with new energy, with the desire to go further up and further in. Edmund thought at the time that he would never need to sleep again, as long as they remained in this paradise. After a few days, though, this started to fade, and they fell into the habit of making camp every night and telling stories. Jill and Eustace reenacted their fight at cliffs edge. Lucy made everyone laugh until they cried with her imitations of Reepicheep. Professor Digory told the story of Old Narnia’s birth.

Susan didn’t say anything, because Susan wasn’t there, and they avoided any and all stories concerning her. Sometimes this led to awkward pauses in the middle of recounting, but there seemed to be a silent agreement that things were better this way.

It was Lucy, naturally, who first broached the subject. Lucy had always been the first to do things, even though she was the youngest. She’d been the first to find Narnia, the first to meet Aslan.

“Who do you think Susan represents?” she asked, looking up from the fire to lock eyes with Edmund.

Professor Digory answered immediately. “I’ve been wondering that myself. I think the real question, though, is who she represents right now.”

“What do you mean?” Eustace asked, looking between Professor Digory and Lucy. He had a blanket wrapped tightly around himself, so that only his head was poking out.

Peter spoke gently. “Have you noticed, Eustace, that there are a lot of parallels between our stories and famous literature? I didn’t see it either, until we started telling these stories at night.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Jill said.

“Well, let’s take it apart logically,” Professor Digory said. “Clearly, Aslan’s Jesus. The White Witch is a whole host of biblical characters. In some ways, she’s both Eve and the snake. She could also be considered Pontius Pilate and Lucifer.”

“It’s not just biblical reference, either,” Peter pointed out. “Shasta’s return to Archenland is the classic Oedipus story of what happens when you try to thwart destiny.”

“Professor Digory’s Adam, except that he didn’t eat the apple,” Lucy said. Everyone turned to look at her. “In a lot of ways, Narnia’s creation parallels the creation story in the Bible. But I think that he has a point. It’s easy to figure out some of the people Susan used to represent, but who is she now?”

“I’m lost again,” Eustace said.

“Well, we’ve all been different people at different times. At first, Edmund was the Judas figure, but clearly that’s no longer true.”

“When Aslan was killed at the Stone Table, Lucy and Susan were the women who came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty,” Professor Digory said. They could tell he was growing excited by the way his hands moved when he spoke.

“When we were brought to help Caspian and I told her I’d seen Aslan, she was Doubting Thomas. She said she wouldn’t believe me unless she saw him herself.”

“I did that, too,” Peter pointed out.

“But who is she now?” Lucy persisted.

Edmund clenched his fists to keep from crying. “She’s not a character this time. She’s a cautionary tale. What happens if you stray too far. And you know what? I hate it. The first time Eustace came to Narnia, he was an utter prig. I was even worse. So why is Susan the one who gets left behind?”

Peter frowned, appearing to be thinking. “We all spent most of our time wishing we were back here. Susan was the only one of us who truly reentered our world. Maybe that’s why.”

“So what if she did? Why should she be punished for that? Aslan told her, he told her she’d never make it back to Narnia. So she learned to love the world she was in, instead of spending all of her time longing for what she couldn’t have. What’s wrong with that?” One tear slipped out of Edmund’s eye, but he wasn’t crying.

Lucy spoke quietly, like a prayer. “Maybe our world will have the same changes as Narnia. Maybe because she loves it there so much, she’s supposed to end up in Paradise there.”

“She was a queen of Narnia for years. Susan the Gentle, remember? Everyone came to her for advice, and she was good at giving it. She deserves to be here!”

“I don’t think that we get to decide that, Edmund.” Peter spoke gently, but his words stung.

“So you’re just fine with this? It’s terrible that Susan can’t be here, but at least we’re in Paradise?”

“I’m not fine with it, no, but I accept it.” When Peter spoke in that voice, it was easy to remember the years he had spent as a High King of Narnia. It had a ring of finality that could only come from knowing with certainty that you are in charge.

“Well, I don’t. Susan should be here, with us. She’s our sister!”

* * * * *

“Miss, can you identify any of the bodies?”

The police officer smelled of blood and smoke, and Susan thought she would puke. She lifted a shaky hand and pointed to Edmund’s body. “That’s my brother.”