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Volume 14, Issue 5: Similitudes

Deep Waters Still Run

Douglas Wilson

Andrew spent a week at the great library, and he even learned his way around in some of the larger rooms. Unlike the sign on the door, most of the books were in languages he could not read. But after several days of grazing among books looking at pictures, he found one large room that was full of books in English. The strange thing about the familiarity of this was that he still did not recognize titles of any of the books or any authors. When he looked at title pages to see where they were printed, he could never find any cities that he recognized. The books were filled with histories of strange countries, words, tribes, and so on, and Andrew spent a full day looking through a shelf of books that were a collection of bestiaries.

During his week in this fifth garden, he spent very little time speaking with Cassiodorus, who showed an entire lack of curiosity about Andrew. Andrew did not feel as though Cassiodorus did not care, but rather that he already knew. In fact, Andrew felt quite sure that Cassiodorus knew far more about him than Andrew himself did. But the books and the high mountain sunlight combined to make Andrew feel incurious as well, and so he filled his days drifting from room to room looking at books. He ate two simple meals a day, brought to him by the servant who had first met him at the door (whose name was Miles), and he slept in a small recess in the wall in a small room just off the kitchens.
On the sixth day, he was in the room with English books working his way through the most colorful bestiary—it was filled with dragons and unicorns. It was here that Andrew learned a great deal about the strange creatures he had encountered thus far. The one that fascinated him the most was the first he had met—the firedrake—and he had flipped through many pages before he came across what he thought was the very same dragon. Beneath a colorful block print of a dragon leaving a garden, Andrew read this caption.
The great wyrm Silverdrake, from the first clutch of that ancient wyrm, who first deceived our mother and threw down our father.
Cassiodorus had walked quietly up behind Andrew while he was intently looking over this picture, and smiled quietly to himself. Andrew was doing well and was inquisitive about all the right things. He coughed quietly so that Andrew would not be startled when he spoke. Andrew closed the book very reluctantly and turned around, standing up as he did so.
Cassiodorus bent his head as he usually did when speaking. "You have been a most welcome guest here. Are you prepared to leave?"
Andrew still knew nothing about what was happening to him, or why, but he still remained content and silently nodded his head. He knew he was not dreaming, but he felt the kind of detachment that you sometimes feel in dreams—as when a dream is frightening, but the one dreaming is not frightened at all.
Cassiodorus walked with Andrew out to the edge of the short lawn in front of his vast library, and they looked over the precipice together. The next level was about a hundred feet below where they were standing, but it was not a garden at all, but rather a deep pool of water.
"This is the only way down," Cassiodorus was saying. "Many of our guests have objected to this, but it is the will of the Lord Christ."
Andrew just stared at the water, and was instantly filled with a strange reluctance. He didn't mind heights—the reluctance was of another kind altogether. He remembered the vague guilt he had felt when he was talking to Silverdrake, and wondered why he was feeling it again now.
"I am not worthy to jump," he found himself saying to Cassiodorus.
"That is quite true," the old man said. "And that is why you must."
"I do not understand," Andrew said.
"If you are held back because you have once disobeyed—and yes, I know about that—then it will hardly solve anything to disobey again now."
Andrew swallowed with some difficulty. "Is there anything I must know?" he asked.
"Yes. When you come to the water, your fall will take you very deep. Your natural instinct will be to try to swim back to the surface, but you must not. If you succeeded, you would find yourself trapped at this small lake, with no way to climb back up here, and no way to continue on. You must try to sink as deep as you can. If you do, then a current will take you swiftly to your seventh test. And you are right in guessing that this is the sixth test."
Andrew looked down at the water again. It was a cold gray blue, and the water lapped gently at the rocks around the edge of the small lake.
How do I know Cassiodorus is telling me the truth? Andrew thought. How do I know the lake is not two feet deep? And he took a deep breath and jumped.

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