Nine Names

She dreamed often of a lion, tawny gold and glorious, with light that scattered from his mane as if it were born inside of him.  In her dreams, she stood beside him, staring east across a vibrant sea, and when she woke, it was always with the refrain, He has nine names.

She hated to wake.  The sea in her sleep was alive but behaved, and in the days since the accident, her days were a horror.  She was in a stupor, flummoxed with loss.  How can I be the only one left?  The mornings were darker than her dreams.

Her aunt and uncle had planned the funeral, which, she realized, was perhaps not the best choice, but she herself was of no use to anyone.  Then again, no one expected much of her at a time like this.  And when that dreaded service came, with the nine closed coffins at the front of the sanctuary, she could not greet the guests or be consoled but instead fled to the solace of the church nursery, where she sat in a chair meant for a small child, her arms wrapped tight about her body, rocking back and forth as if the motion itself would somehow comfort her.  There is no one left.

On the wall was a mural of Noah’s Ark—painted in the friendly, child-safe version that curtailed the dreadful details.  Instead, there was a large boat with a smiling man on board, surrounded by animals, and above them stretched a rainbow in the primary colors of youth.  Two giraffes poked their heads from the roof of the ark; a dove carried an olive branch back to the man; pairs of smiling anthropomorphic animals stood together on the deck.  Two elephants, two horses, two monkeys, two zebras.  One lion.

The lion.  He has nine names. 

She grimaced as she brushed away thoughts of her dream.

“Susan?” Aunt Alberta said, leaning her head inside the nursery door.  “Oh, there you are.  The service—it’s about to start.”

She nodded.  “I’ll be there in a moment.”

No tears had come yet, although she was certain that they would—and when those floodgates opened, she wondered if they would ever close again.  Her mother and father, her brothers, her sister, her cousin, and three friends—all gone, leaving her life as shredded as the railway tracks that day.  She had seen the bodies before they’d closed the coffins.  Nine plastic faces smiling serenely, as if they were all in on a secret she did not know.

Her throat caught as she stood to her feet for the service.  She wanted to blame someone, but whom would she blame?  She glanced again at the mural on the wall, all those happy animals looking as if they were talking beasts.  She frowned; it was as if—as if—it was like a moment of déjà vu.  Stop it, she told herself.  Just get through the service, through the burial.  Just hold together for a few more hours.

And yet, as she walked back toward the sanctuary, now full of mourning guests, it happened again.  This time an image burned in her mind as if it were a memory from another life: a stone table, cracked in two, empty of life or death, but full of meaning and magic.  And when she opened the door to the sanctuary, she uttered a loud gasp when she saw the crucifix at the front of the room.  The guests turned to look.

He has nine names.  And now she knew two.

37 thoughts on “Nine Names

      • This is a problem I couldn’t resolve after I read The Last Battle; I had identified with Susan throughout the first books but I was really upset with the way C. S. Lewis ended her story. And the way you wrote this… like I said, major writer’s envy.(:

      • You’re so sweet, Mary! I checked out your blog and was very impressed … I think I read that you’re a junior in high school, is that right? You write at a level far beyond your age.

      • VERY IMPRESSIVE. You’re a much better writer and more self-aware junior than I ever was. I’m excited to follow your blog and see more of your posts. Are you friends with Stacey from home?

      • Oh thank you! You are so sweet. Writing is something I couldn’t live without, and I appreciate it your encouragement about it. And thanks for following and commenting!
        Yes, I am a friend of Stacey’s from church. She showed me your blog first, and now basically every time we talk we talk about the writer’s envy we have after reading your blog posts.(:

      • I am thinking of double-majoring with sociology and either journalism or creative writing. Were you a creative writing major like Stacey?

      • Yes! I focused more on poetry in college but have pursued fiction afterward. I love any kind of creative writing. What do you want to do with the sociology major? (Is this bad I am asking so many questions?)

      • Very cool; poetry is something that’s been harder for me, and I can imagine it wasn’t an easy major! I see that you have written a novel (or more than one?). Has it been published?
        Well, with sociology I am planning to work with people, kids most likely as a counselor or social worker. Actually my dream is to have a home for kids who just need a place to stay, runaways, kids who foster parents won’t take because they’ve been in too much trouble. Preferably inner-city, working with a school.
        And no, the questions are perfectly alright!

      • Published? I wish!! It’s a dream of mine, but so far I’ve only published poems and articles. Maybe a novel someday! I am working right now on a young adult novel.

        Those are very admirable goals, Mary! I think you’re a brilliant and fascinating young lady. 🙂

      • Gosh, I would be the first to buy a book written by you (or Stacey and I would be wrestling in line).(: You are an incredible writer, and I look forward to reading more from you!
        And thanks.(: It means a lot coming from a writer like you. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you over these comments. (:

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