Fear of the dark.
After the revelation regarding Aslan’s real manner of arrival in the household, the animals all settled down for the night. Snow had turned to rain, and what rain it was! It came down in sheets, the strong wind throwing it against the windows, which made sleeping difficult. Aslan, ensconced between Tembi’s forepaws, shifted restlessly.
“It’s okay little cub,” Tembi whispered, it’s only rain, it won’t harm you.” The tiny male cub buried his head in his mother’s fur.
“It was raining the day I was born,” he mewed, “I remember the feeling of wet grass under my paws. It was cold and clung to my paws, not letting them go! That’s why I hate rain.” Tembi massaged Aslan’s tiny right forepaw, the cub relaxing as the massage took affect.
“You see?” Tembo scoffed, “Aslan’s nothing but a frightened cub! Frightened of the rain, what a load of rubbish!”
“Leave him alone Tembo,” Salty said softly.
“No Salty, I won’t!” Tembo jeered, “what are you going to do if I don’t leave him alone? Nothing! So I won’t leave him alone, I’ll do what I want with the little scrap!”
“I say again, leave Aslan alone!” Salty snarled. Tembo laughed, and striding up to Salty, danced in front of him, jeering and singing:
“Who’s afraid of Salty, who’s afraid of Salty!” Salty’s paw smashed into Tembo’s shoulder, sending the cub flying across the room!
“That’s only a taste!” Salty yelled, as Tembo’s body crashed into the radiator. Tembo’s scream of pain as he hit the radiator, then the floor woke Elsa, who scrambled to her paws, then tripped over them in her haste to go to Tembo’s aid. Lying on the floor as winded as her cub, Elsa watched Tembo struggle to his own paws and crawl away. Salty watched the lion cub crawl into a corner.
“he won’t learn,” Salty growled.
“He will learn,” someone said, “for I will teach him.” Salty looked down, to see Aslan in front of him.
“With all due respect Aslan, you’re a cub, and much younger than Tembo. You couldn’t teach him anything.”
“I will,” the little lion said, “I will teach him by degrees that I’m not his punch bag.”
“Brave words little cub,” Salty said, “but do you not remember what Tembo did to you only yesterday? Theodore had to rescue you little cub. Tembo’s much stronger than you. You can’t teach him anything.”
“physically stronger he might be,” Aslan said, “but in character? Is Tembo strong in that sense?” Salty had to agree, the lion cub wasn’t strong in character.
“No Aslan, he’s not strong in character,” the snow leopard replied, “but talking to him won’t work! He doesn’t respond to that!”
“He was frightened of me and I laid no paw on him,” Aslan said.
“Yes, frightened of you he was,” Salty replied, “but that was not because of who you are, it was because of what you are. In that you are blind, and that’s the thing which scares him most of all. When Tembo said you were like Whitie, Blanche and Pipin, that’s what he meant little cub.”
“What do you mean by me being blind? What is that?” Aslan asked. Salty, uncomfortable with this subject, hesitated:
“Ask Whitie,” he said, “she’ll tell you.”
“Who’s Whitie? And Salty, why can’t you tell me what you mean by me being blind?”
“Whitie’s a snow leopard cub,” Salty replied, “and as for your second question, well, I don’t know much about what it is to be blind, I just know that’s what you are though.” Aslan felt fear from Salty.
“What are you afraid of Salty?” Aslan asked.
“I’m not afraid!” Salty snapped.
“Does being blind, whatever that is, frighten you Salty?” Aslan asked. Salty felt fear rise in him. He felt hot all over, and his paws began to shake and become damp with sweat. It was the most intense fear Salty had.
“I’m mortally terrified of it,” Salty whispered.
“So you will not speak of it?” Aslan asked, “not even to one who is blind, as you call it?”
“No Aslan, I can’t,” Salty replied, his voice almost cracking.
“Are you saying I’m a bad cub because of this so called blind thing?” Aslan asked.
“No, not at all,” Salty protested, “but, but it’s something which terrifies me.”
“I’ve done nothing to harm you, but you’re scared of me?” Aslan asked.
“No little cub, no!” Salty replied, “I never said that.”
“You might as well have said it,” Aslan replied, “you fear what I am Salty.”
“I fear your situation, not you yourself Aslan,” Salty mewed.
“I’m sorry for you,” Aslan said, “I hope you will learn to accept me for who I am, and not think of me as just a blind cub.” Aslan’s words tore into Salty, and the huge male snow Leopard began to cry. Lying down, he buried his face in his huge forepaws and wept.
Aslan left Salty alone, greatly upset by the snow leopard’s words. Returning to Tembi’s side, Aslan settled down, but Salty’s manner troubled him. Aslan felt Theo lying on his other side to Tembi. He also felt his sire’s turmoil.
“Theo?” Aslan asked softly. Theo rolled over and took Aslan in both paws.
“You are sensitive to my mood little cub,” the young lion mewed, “I can’t deny I’m upset, as upset as you are.” Aslan touched Theo’s nose with one tiny paw, Theo nuzzling the pads of his paw.
“You won’t understand why others are frightened of your situation,” Theo said, “because you live with it every day, and can cope with it. Those who don’t live like you do, fear what you deal with.”
“You mean you don’t deal with it too?” Aslan asked.
“Not in the same way you do my cub,” Theo said, stroking Aslan’s paw with his.
“What is Salty so terrified of?” the cub enquired.
“I don’t know how to explain it other than this, so please forgive me,” Theo said, “but it’s like this. We, who are not blind, can see things like colours, shapes, the sky is blue, the trees with their leaves of green, and we can see each other. We can tell who’s in a room if we have previously met, or seen pictures by remembering what we’ve seen before and matching that to what our eyes tell us. I can, for example see that you have a dark mane, short tail, black whiskers, and,” here Theo picked up one of Aslan’s paws and examined the pads, “black pads on the sole of your paws little cub. Now I see all this. I don’t need to touch you to know any of this. I can see your mane, tail and whiskers when you are close to me, or when you are far away. I can also see the pads on the soles of your paws when you lie on your side or on your back while I’m grooming you. I don’t need to touch you to find any of this out about you. Now you Aslan, describe me.”
“Well Theo,” Aslan replied, “you are large, larger than me that is, but not as large as Leo, for he’s massive. You have a rough mane, soft silky fur, tiny ears for your general size, and large very strokable paws. Your paws are ticklish too!” Theo smiled, despite the gravity of the subject.
“Anything else?” he asked.
“Your pads are rough, and your whiskers tickle me whenever you hug me. It’s nice that.” Theo gulped hard. Aslan’s words bringing a rush of emotion which brought tears to his eyes, “your paws are very soft too,” Aslan concluded.
“You see Aslan my cub,” Theo choked, “you described what your paws tell you when you touch me. If I refused to let you touch me, you’d know none of this. To you I would just be a voice, and that’s all.” Aslan knew what his sire meant. There were many animals to whom he’d spoken, but hadn’t touched, to him they were just voices. Salty for one, though Aslan had engaged in conversation with him, he’d not touched the snow leopard. He knew nothing about him other than the sound of his voice and the fact he was terrified of what Aslan was.
“Being blind means you have to listen to and touch the world around you to experience it,” Theo said, “I know that’s rather lame, but it’s the best I can describe the difference between my situation and your own my cub.”
“What are green and Blue?” Aslan asked, “Theo, you said Blue is what the sky is, and the leaves on the trees are green.”
“You ask a question Aslan, which I cannot answer. Noone can answer that question, you have to see green leaves and blue sky to know what they are. This is one question I would dearly love to answer, but I cannot. My cub, that’s the worst of it. If you have not seen colours, like blue and green, there’s no way someone can describe them to you. I would try little cub, but I couldn’t do it, even if I was promised the world. Colour is not something anyone can describe, and for that I’m more sorry than I can put into words. I would give all I have to be able to describe a sunset to you in the full glory in which I see it little cub, but I cannot describe the sunset, as you’ve never before seen colour. So all that I’m saying about colours are useless words, useless, dreadfully upsetting words, because you will not be able to experience the richness of life I can. The thing is Aslan,” Theo said, taking the cub in his paws and hugging him, “I know that if I could not see these things tomorrow I’d go crazy. For this I feel dreadful, for you are in that position already, but I can’t help feeling the way I do.” Aslan felt Theo’s tears wetting his fur as his sire wept.
the other animals in the living room listened to Theo and Aslan’s conversation, and not one dared speak. Even Tembo and Tarker were silent, for they realised that what Theo had said was true for them also. Tembi lay with her face buried in her paws, the raw power of what Theo had said leaving her feeling weak and helpless. She knew that when she opened her eyes, she’d be able to see everyone and everything, but Aslan could not see anything, even if he could open his eyes, which Tembi now knew would never happen. Tembi kept her eyes closed and tried to imagine living life in that dark place. All she’d have to tell her what the world was like around her would be her ears and paws. What if other animals refused to touch her? What if Theo refused to touch her? What would she do then? Tembi knew she and her mate communicated their love for each other in visual signals most of the time. Emotions were communicated that way too. If a lion snarled or growled, it was usually too late. Tembi often spoke lovingly to Theo, and him to her, but they were only words, hot air, and they could be meaningless rubbish. Tembi admitted to herself the times when she truly knew Theo loved her was when he embraced her, caressed her paws, licked her ear, nuzzled her cheek, all that. But this was touch again, and Tembi knew it wasn’t done to go up to a strange animal and touch them to find out what they were feeling. Tembi knew touch never lied, that when she touched Theo or Aslan, that her paws told each of them her true feelings towards them. The same for them touching her, their touch never lied. She could tell if they were anxious, happy, sad, confused, feeling frightened or secure, all that, and it was all through the contact between their paws and her fur or paws, or her paws and their fur or paws. The voice could lie, words could lie, but touch and visual cues never lied. Tembi realised if she lost visual cues, she’d have to rely on touch if she wanted the absolute truth from anyone she met. Words could be spoken with false sincerity, but the true feelings of the speaker could only be gleaned by touch or sight. Tembi felt hot, her head ached, her forepaws were wet, and when she licked her left forepaw, she tasted salty tears.
“Don’t cry mum,” someone said. Tembi turned and saw Aslan lying beside her.
“I was, was thinking,” she stammered.
“I know what you were thinking of mum,” Aslan said, “you were thinking about what Theo and I were talking about earlier.”
“Yes Aslan I was,” his mother replied, “and Theo’s right in so many things he said to you little cub.”
“So it’s not me they fear, it’s my situation?” Aslan asked. Tembi touched his paw with hers:
“Yes little cub,” she replied.
“But Salty wouldn’t talk about it,” Aslan mewed.
“He’s dead scared,” Tembi said.
“And Theo isn’t?” Aslan asked.
“Theo’s, well, more courageous than Salty, in my view anyway,” Tembi replied.
“Theo’s very honest about everything,” Aslan said, “I could feel it in his paws when I held them while he spoke to me. He meant every word he said.”
“Theo and I love you very much Aslan,” Tembi said, “don’t forget that little cub.” Aslan snuggled up to Tembi, warm and secure in her presence.
“How you can love a cub like him I’ll never understand!” Tembo spat.
“he’s far nicer than you are, that’s for certain,” Portia mewed. Tembo snarled and spat at her.
“I rest my case,” Portia yawned. Tembi stroked Aslan’s paw, the cub working his tiny paw into her larger one.
“That feels so good,” Aslan mewed. Theo watched his mate and their cub.
“I love you both,” Theo purred. Aslan shook himself awake and Tembi guided him to Theo, both of them having the same idea. Tembi and Aslan tried to hug Theo simultaneously. Theo smiled, hugging first his mate, then his cub.
“how about if we all settle down and see if we can get some sleep,” Tembi suggested. Theo and Aslan were up for that, and both Tembi and Aslan were soon cuddled up to Theo, who rested his head on his forepaws, his paws resting on those of Tembi and Aslan. Aslan found Theo’s paw to be warm and soft.
“I can sleep like this,” the cub mewed. Tembi gently nuzzled Theo’s paw which held hers so tenderly.
“Let’s all see if we can sleep,” she said, “for it’s been quite a day.”
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