Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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Flashback: “The Perfected Self”

Flashback: “The Perfected Self”

The shark emerges from the waters. It crawls onto the land. It learns to walk.

It hides itself behind sunglasses and a jacket.

It spritzes itself, erratically, with water.

It listens to a tape on basic conversational English. The tape asks it where to find the bathroom. It tells it the bathroom is down the hall. The shark repeats this. It speaks, tooth-grinding, tooth-vibrating painful speech, and when it has lost too many teeth from it, it grows some more.

It staggers into the Shear Building. It flaps its little fins pathetically against Professor Henley’s door.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s what you’d do if you were a shark, wouldn’t you?

You’d hunt down the Seminar of the Perfected Self.

Wouldn’t it be better to be perfect than to be a shark?

“Please, sir,” the shark says through the door. It sorts through its list of phrases. “The butter is on the table.”

It doesn’t help that Professor Henley isn’t in then.

He might or might not care about the shark’s butter. He might or might not be able to see through the lie of words to the heart of the walking shark. But his absence is really terrible at it. His absence, the part of him that’s not in the office, doesn’t answer the shark’s butter at all.

“I don’t know where to find the train station,” the shark tries.

It wouldn’t have helped, you know. The Perfected Self isn’t about that. It’s not about changing. It’s about becoming more what you are. It’s about alchemical purification. If the shark learned Henley’s meditation, I don’t think it would help it. To change I think you really need Heart.

But Professor Henley still found the shark afterwards, laying there, dried out on the floor of the Shear Building. I guess it had gotten into an altercation with a visiting Agent and had lost its spritzing bottle therefrom.

The only way we even really know that the shark could talk at all was from the recordings.

They’re on the other side of the tape.

And it’s harder to do the alchemy on someone else. It’s easier to perfect yourself with meditation than to do it to something else with science. But I guess it was kind of a responsibility. The kind of thing you do, you know, when there’s a shark in a jacket, all withered and dried, outside of your office door.

It was still dead. It’s . . .

I don’t want to dismiss that. The shark was still dead, afterwards. That death was part of its truth. But it wasn’t all dried up and rotten any longer. It wasn’t rough and awful any longer. Not after.

You can look at it if you like. It’s that thing in the lobby. People sometimes just stop and they stare.



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