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The Chrysalids
John Wyndham

contributed by
Juliet <sankara8@yahoo.com>






"I was a normal boy, growing up in a normal way, taking the ways of the world for granted... It is hindsight that enables me to fix that as the day when my first small doubts started to germinate."





"I hesitated, but childhood is a time thickly beset with incomprehensible, though important, conventions, so I withdrew a few yards and turned my back."





'When I did succeed in getting the foot free, it looked queer: I mean it was all twisted and puffy - I didn't even notice then that it had more than the usual number of toes..."





"Her trousers were worn through at the knees, and the knees themselves were sore and bleeding.I had never known anyone, boy or girl, who would have kept on till that pitch; it awed me slightly."





"The commandments and precepts one learns as a child can be remembered by rote, but they mean little until there is example - and, even then, the example needs to be recognized."





"And God created man in His own image. And God decreed that man should have one body, one head, two arms and two legs: that each arm should be jointed in two plces and end in one hand: that each hand should have four fingers and one thumb: that each finger should bear a flat finger-nail...."





"'Then God created woman, also, and in the same image, but with these differences, according to her nature: her voice should be of a higher pitch than a man's: she should grow no beard: she should have two breasts..."





"I was surprised by her, for there had been no sign before that she could think that way."





"But there was often a great deal of grown-up fuss that seeemed disproptionate to causes."





"And any creature that shall seem to be human, but is not formed thus is not human. it is neither man nor woman. It is blasphemy against the true Image of God, and hateful in the sight of God."





"A blasphemy was, as had been impressed upon me often enough, a frightful thing. Yet there was nothing frightful about Sophie. She was simply an ordinary girl - if a great deal more sensible and braver than most."





"The ways of the world were very puzzling..."





"My grandfather... appeared to have been a man of somewhat tediously unrelieved virture."





"Respect for God was frequently on his lips, and fear of the devil constantly in his heart, and it seems to have been hard to say which inspired him more more."





In a few seasons he straitened the coltishness with admonitions, faded the pink and gold with preaching, and produced a sad, grey wraith of wifehood who died, unprotesting, a year after her second son was born.





"My father's faith was bred into his bones, his principles were his sinews, and both responded to a mind richly stored with examples from the Bible, and from Nicholson's Repentances."





"THE NORM IS THE WILL OF GOD, and, REPRODUCTION IS THE ONLY HOLY PRODUCTION and, THE DEVIL IS THE FATHER OF DEVIATION, and a number of others about Offences and Blasphemies."





"As the sun rose we would sing a hymn while my father ceremoniously slaughtered the two-headed calf, four-legged chicken, or whatever other kind of Offence it happened to be. Sometimes it would be a much queerer thing than those..."





"So I learnt quite early to know what Offences were. they were things which did not look right - that is to say, did not look like their parents, or parent-plants."





I said I was sorry, and added:

"I could have managed it all right by myself if I'd had another hand."

My voice must have carried, for silence fell on the whole room like a clap.

My mother froze."





"You - my own son - were calling upon the Devil to give you another hand!' he accused me."

"But I wasn't. I only - "

"You blasphemed, boy. You found fault with the Norm."





"In the night, when the anguish which had followed my father's visit was somewhat abated, I lay awake, puzzling. I had had no idea of wishing for a third hand, but even if I had....? If it was such a terrible thing just to think of having three hands, what would happen if one really had them - or anything else wrong; such as, for instance, an extra toe?"





"His gravity impressed me greatly... It made me aware, when I gave my promise, that I was vowing something more important than I could understand."





"I heard later that both the captured Fringes men managed to escape that same night, I can't remember who told me, but I am perfectly certain it was not my father. I never once heard him refer to that day, and I never ahd the courage to ask him about it..."





"It is your moral duty to issue an order againts these so-called horses," my father insisted...

"It's part of my official duty to protect them from harm fools and bigots," he snapped.





"It was this long line of tongues that had given us the name Labrador, for it was unmentioned in either the Bible or Repentances, and they may have right abou the cold, although there were only two cold months in the year now - Tribulation could account for that, it could account for almost anything..."





Ethics was why you should, and shouldn't, do things. Most of the don'ts were the same as my father's, but some of the reasons were different, so it was confusing.





Only the authorities, ecclesiastical and lay, were in a position to judge whether the next step was a rediscovery, and so, safe to take or whether it deviated from the true- re-ascent, and so was sinful.





Most of the numerous precepts, arguments, and examples in Ethics were condensed for us into this: the duty and purpose of man in this world is to fight unceasingly against the evils that Tribulation loosed upon it. Above all, he must see that the human form is kept true to the divine pattern in order that one day it may be permitted to regain the high place in which, as the image of God, it was set.'





I looked up and saw that he was staring down at something beside me. I turned quickly. On the rock was a footprint, still undried... The mark was still damp enough to show the print of all six toes clearly.





"Going away?" I repreated blankly... Nothing, I knew, was going to be quite the same ever again. the desolation of the prospect engulfied me. I had to struggle hard to keep back tears."





Close to her like that I could catch her thoughts. They came faster, but easier to understand, than words... I had the complete answer before John Wender had put the first sentence of his reply into ordinary words.





The words were like a clumsy reptition. Her thoughts have been much clearer, and I had already had to accept the inevitable decision. I could not trust myself to speak. I nodded dumbly, and let her hold me to her in a way my own mother never did.





By now it was not so much the bodily hurts that brough them: it was bitterness, self-contempt, and abasement. In wretchedness and misery I clutched the yellow ribbon and the brown curl tight in my hand.





They wrestled with the novel idea that a Deviation might not be disgusting and evil - not very successfully.





I found it hard to see how the very small toe on each foot could make much difference either.





"In my experience," he told me, "if you run away from a thing just because you don't like it, you don't like what you find either. Now, running to a thing, that's a different matter, but what would you want to run to?''





"You lost your faith?" I inquired.

Uncle Axle snorted, and pulled a face.

"Preacher-words!" he said, and thought for a moment. "... that a lot of people saying that a thing is so, doesn't prove it is so. I'm telling that nobody, nobody really knows what is the true image. They all think they know just as we think we know, but, for all we can prove, the Old People themselves may not have been the true image."





No one, indeed would dream of mentioning the matter openly until the inspector should have called to issue his certificate that it was human baby in the true image.





Nobody could blame the inspector for that she did appear to be as normal as a new-born baby ever looks...





I used to feel when I looked at her that I was seeing my mother as she might have been - as, I thought, I would have liked her to be. She was easier to talk to, too; she did not have a somewhat damping manner of listening only to correct.





"Why should I? I've done nothing to be ashamed of. I am not ashamed - I am only beaten."





"I shall pray to God to send charity to this hideous world, and sympathy for the weak, and love for the unhappy and unfortunate. I shall ask Him if is indeed His will that a child should suffer and its soul be damned for a little blemish on the body....And I shall pray Him, too, that the hearts of the self-righteous may be broken..."





Accursed is the mutant... The mutant, the enemy, not only of the human race, but of all the species God had decreed; the seed of the Devil within, trying unflaggingly, eternally to come to fruition in order that it might destroy the divine order and turn our land, the stronghold of Gold"s will upon Earth, into a lewd chaos... where true stock had given place to unnameable creatures, abominable growths flourished, and the spirits of evil mocked the Lord with obscene fantasies.





"What can it have been - this terrible thing that must have happened? And why? I can almost understand that God, made angry, might destroy all living things, or the world itself; but I don't understand this instability, this mess of deviations - it makes no sense."





I did not see his real difficulty. After all, God, being omnipotent, could cause anything He liked.I tried to explain this to Uncle Axel, but he shook his head.





"We've got to believe that God is sane, Davie boy. We'd be lost indeed if we didsn't do that. But whatever happened out there... was not sane at all - not sane at all. It was something vast, yet something beneath the wisdom of God."





"What do you think it is that makes a man"

I started on the Definition. He cut me of after five words.

"It is not!" he said. "A wax figure could have all that, and he'd still be a wax figure, wouldn't he?" ...

"Well, then, what makes a man a man is something inside him."

"A soul?" I suggested.

"No... souls are just counters for churches to collect, all the same value, like nails. No, what makes man man is mind; it's not a thing, it's a quality, and minds aren't all the same value; they're better or worse, and the better they are, the more they mean."





"Now, as I see it, some way or another you and Rosalind and the others have got a new quality of mind. To pray God to take it away is wrong; it's like asking Him to strike you blind, or make you deaf... You have to come to terms with it. You'll have to face it and decide that, since that's the way things are with you, what is the best use you can make of it and still keep yourselves safe?"





It was a great satisfaction to learn and know more, it helped to ease one over a lot of puzzling maters... nevertheless, it brought, too, the first taste of complications from which we would never again be free. Quite quickly it became difficult always to remember how much one was supposed to know. It called for a lot of restraint to remain silent in the face of simple errors, to listen patiently to silly arguments based on misconceptions, to do a job in a customary way when one knew there was a better way...





We had a gift, a sense which, Michael complained bitterly, should have been a blessing, but was lilttle better than a curse. The stupidest norm was happier; he could feel that he belonged.





"Beans... The others I've had before, but who ever heard of beans getting tribulated?"





He spat disgustedly into the muck-pile.

"It's the same all around.Slackness, laxness, nobody caring beyond a bit of lip-service... But God is not mocked."





"Why should the deviation-rate suddenly get high some years?" I asked him.

He shook his head. "... Nobody knows what... Next year's going to be a bad one, too... They'll have a sharp eye for scapegoats."





Other people seem so dim, so half-perceived, compared with those whom one knows their thought-shapes; and I don't suppose 'normals', who can never share their thoughts, can understand how we are so much more a part of one another... And we don't have to flounder among the shortcoming of words; it is difficult for us to falsify or pretend a thought even if we want to; on the other hand, it is almost impossible for us to misunderstand one another.





"This isn't a cosy world for anyone - especially not for anyone that's different," he said.





"It wouldn't be just murder, Uncle Axel. It'd be something worse, as well; like violating part of ourselves forever... We couldn't do it..."

"The alternative is the sword over your heads," he said.

"I know... But that isn't the way. A sword inside us would be worse."





"It was one of those things that seem ordained, in such proper accord with the law of nature and our own desires, that we felt we had always known it."





"One of us has been found not strong enough..."





"If the worst comes to the worst, and you can't save Petra, it would be kinder to kill her than let her go to sterilization and banishment to the Fringes - a lot more merciful for a child."





It made me wonder how many mothers there might be who were turning a blind eye towards matters that did not actually infringe the Definition of the True Image... I wondered, to, whether my mother would, in secret, be glad or sorry that I had taken Petra away...





Words have to be chosen, and then interpreted; but thought-shapes you feel, inside you...





It would have been easier to pacify her had we not ourselves suffered from quite a residue of childhood apprehensions, or had we been able to advance some real idea of the region to set against its morbid reputation.





"Why should they be afraid of us? We aren't hurting them," she broke in.

"I'm not sure that I know why... But they are. It's a feel-thing not a think-thing. And the more stupid they are, the more like everyone else they think everyone ought to be. And once they get afraid they become cruel and want to hurt people who are different --"





"She says... that people who can only talk with words have something missing. She says we ought to be sorry for them because, however old they grow, they'll never be able to understand one another much better. They'll have to be one-at-a-times always, never think-togethers."





Rosalind was calling me; the real Rosalind, the one who dwelt inside, and showed herself too seldom. The other, the practical, capable one, was her own convincing creation, not herself... I had seen her find her weapons and become skilled with them, watched her construct a character so thoroughly and wear it so constantly that for spells she almost deceived herself.





All these were easy to love -- too easy: anyone must love them.

They needed her defences: the crust of independence and indifference: the air of practical, derisive reliability; the unaroused interest, the aloof manner. The qualities were not intended to endear, and at times they could hurt; but one who had seen the how and why of them could admire them, if only as a triumph of art over nature.





None of them knew my dear, tender Rosalind longing for escape, gentleness, and love; grown afraid now of what she had built for her own protection; yet more afraid still, of facing life without it.





Duration is nothing. Perhaps it was only for an instant we were together again. The importance of a point is in its existence; it has no dimensions.





"It's your parts where the old Devil's hanging on and looking after his own. Arrogant, they are. The trye image, and all that.... Want to be like the Old People. Tribulation hasn't taught them a thing."





"The Old People thought they were the tops, too... All they had to do was get it fixed up comfortable, and keep it that way; then everybody'd be fine, on account of their ideas being a lot more civilized than God's."





"They haven't God's word like they thought: God doesn't have any last word. If He did He'd be dead. But He isn't dead; and He changes and grows, like everything else that's alive."





"It was odd, I felt, how many people seemed to have positive, if conflicting, information upon God's views."





"They stamp on any change: they close the way and keep the type fixed because they've got the arrogance to think themselves perfect. As they reckon it, they. and only they, are in the true image; very well, then it follows that if the image is true, they themselves must be God: and, being God, they reckon themselves entitled to decree, "thus far, and no farther." That is their great sin: they try to strangle the life out of Life."





"The kind of people that God intended, perhaps?" ..... "I don't know about that. Who does? But we do know that we can make a better world than the Old People did."





"Do you know what the length of a man's arm should be?"

"No", I admitted.

"Nor do I. But somebody on Rigo does, some expert on the true image."





"You've not the guts to fight for what's yours by right?" he suggested.

"If it's yours by right, it can't be mine by right," I pointed out.





"I remember. My mother said there was something... something about the way you sometimes seem to understand her before she spoke."





"It must be a very wonderful thing to have," she said, half wistfully. "Like more eyes, inside you."





"To be any kind of deviant is to be hurt - always," she said.





"You've got to have as little as I have to know how much that means. You've never known loneliness. You can't understand the awful emptiness that's waiting all around us here. I'd have given him babies gladly, if I could... Why didn't they kill me? It would have been kinder than this..."





"You must get rid of the cross..."

"I used to wear one," she said. "It didn't help me, either."





A pause, then a brown arm reached out round Petra's shoulders. The sound became a little desolate... it no longer tore at one's heart: but it left it bruised and aching...





"Rachel's afraid. She's crying inside. She wants Michael..."

"... It was a sort of behind-think, but I saw it."





Suspicion insulated one curiously little against the shock of knowledge.





"Your work is to survive. Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled - they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from rocks, change is its very nature."





The living form defies evolution at its peril; if it does not adapt, it will be broken. The idea of completed man is the supreme vanity: the finishes image is a sacrilegious myth.





"They have become history without being aware of it. They are determined still that there is a final form to defend: soon they will attain the stability they strive for, in the form it is granted - a place among the fossils..."





"There is comfort in a mother's breast, but there has to be as weaning. The attainment of independence, the severing of ties, is at best, a bleak process for both sides; ... The cord has been cut at the other end already; it will only be a futile entanglement if you do not cut it at your end, too."





"Whether harsh intolerance and bitter rectitude are the armour worn over fear and disappointment, or whether they are the festival-dress of the sadist, they cover an enemy of the life-force."





"We have a new world to conquer: they have only a lost cause to lose."





"It is not pleasant to kill any creature... but to pretend that one can live without doing so is self-deception."





"It is neither shameful nor shocking that it should be so: it is simply part of the great revolving wheel of naturaleconomy. And just as we have to keep ourselves alive in these ways, too, we have to preserve our species against other species that wish to destroy it - or else fail in our trust."





"In loyalty to their kind they cannot tolerate our rise; in loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction."





"If the process shocks you, it is because you have not been able to stand off and, knowing what you are, see what a difference in kind must mean... They can see quite well that if it is to survive they have only to preserve it from deterioration, but they must protect it from the even more serious threat of the superior variant."





"Understanding one another, we do not need laws which treat living forms as though they were as indistinguishable as bricks: we could never commit the enormity of imagining that we could mint ourselves into equality and identity, like stamped coins; we do not mechanistically attempt to hammer ourselves into geometrical patterns of society, or policy; we are not dogmatists teaching God how He should have ordered the world."





"The essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it."





"The static, the enemy of change, is the enemy of life, and therefore our implacable enemy."





"Knowing makes all the difference. Knowing that we're not just pointless freaks - a few bewildered deviations hoping to save their own skins. It's the difference between just trying to keep alive, and having something to live for."





The armour was gone. She let me look beneath it. It was like a flower opening...




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