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Chapter Twelve: The Train


Every memory laid written in Susan’s lap, a pile of used ink cartridges on the floor near her feet. She’d used nearly every paper she could find. There was only one page left—Susan took that and wrote, with bold strokes: The Chronicles of Narnia.

She knew they were poorly written, possibly even boring. They were very factual, like a history book, and not at all like a novel. But maybe she could find someone who would help her make them more interesting.

Susan’s compact mirror had laid open on the edge of the chair the entire time she wrote. The glass then wrinkled over itself and she saw Aslan.

Susan smiled, feeling complete under his gaze.

“Will I ever be able to hug you again?” Susan asked.

Aslan’s eyes were warm, His smile, rewarding. “It is not yet your time, daughter of Eve. But it is time for you to leave this cottage and return to London.”

“But … ” Susan shivered. “I can’t go back. Not when Carl doesn’t love me as he used to. Oh, Aslan, why does Carl act as if I am detestable to him? Why won’t he try and believe me?”

“Carl Bryant is the sort of man that is evil not because he hates others or desires more for himself, but because he clings to his foolishness and refuses to know the truth. He convinces himself that he does right to stay with you, but he’s also blinded to anything true, and so he is also convinced that you are the one that needs help. Do not hate him, Susan, but pray for him.”

“Will I have to marry him?” Susan asked.

“Your future is not for you to know. Now go.”

But Susan couldn’t move, and she argued once more, “I can’t. If Carl finds me, he’ll surely send me away.”

Aslan growled, but He didn’t sound angry. “Trust me, my daughter.”

Rebuked, Susan lowered her eyes. “Yes.”

When she raised her eyes, Aslan was gone. Susan was tempted to cry, but instead she closed her mirror and stood from the chair—her stiff legs nearly buckled under the sudden movement.

How long had she sat in that chair? It had felt like mere hours, but Susan suspected that it had to have been much longer. Susan felt no weariness at a loss for sleep, nor hunger for food, nor thirst for water. It was like she had slipped in Narnia time, for though time had passed, it also had not passed.

Susan changed into fresh clothes and slipped her manuscript into several large envelopes. The envelopes were too large to fit in her bag, so she carried them in her arms and placed her bag straps over her shoulders. Her things packed and ready, Susan left the cottage, locking the door behind her and starting the fifteen miles to the train station.

But after just a mile, the same old man with his grandsons pulled his wagon up alongside of Susan. “Need a ride, Miss?” the old man offered.

Susan climbed on back with the boys.

“Going home all ready?” one of them asked her.

Susan nodded. “Yes, I’ve been here long enough.”

“Three days isn’t very long,” the boy snickered, but then sobered, as if afraid his laughing might have offended Susan. “But then, it’s not very pretty this time of the year.”

But all Susan heard was the part where the boys said she’d been there only three days. Three days of writing without stop or rest—how had she done it? Even now, she hardly felt hungry, just as she might if she’d just woken up from a night of sleep, ready for breakfast.

๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•

Susan was the first to board the train. She found a seat in the middle of the car and sat by the window, holding her manuscript tight to her chest.

The car was nearly full of people when a middle aged man entered. He stopped at the open seat next to Susan. “May I?” he asked.

Susan nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Once the man was seated comfortably and had placed his briefcase securely between his feet, he turned to Susan and said, “I’m Jack Lewis.”

“Susan Pevensie.”

Susan thought that the man looked very much like Professor Kirke, except that Mr Lewis’ face was smooth, soft, and not quite so narrow as the Professor’s. Actually, when Susan looked closer, she realized he didn’t look much like the Professor after all, though he seemed just as kind and strangely familiar.

“It’s nice to meet you. And where are you going?” Mr Lewis asked.

“Home in London,” Susan replied.

“I’m going to visit friends.” He said this as if he were a schoolboy going home on vacation.

Susan smiled, but couldn’t think of anything else to say. And neither could the man, apparently, for he tipped his hat over his eyes and fell asleep. And so most of the train ride was quiet, with Susan watching the world outside her window and the man snoring next to her.

Mr Lewis awoke just before they pulled into London. He yawned and stretched without bumping into Susan’s space, then asked her, “What are you holding there so tightly, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Something … I wrote,” Susan replied.

“Ah, I’m something of a writer myself.” Mr Lewis grinned.

“Oh?” Susan sat straighter. “What sort of books do you write?”

“I’ve written many things … but they’d probably all be a bore to someone your age.”

And then Susan remembered why the man seemed so familiar. She’d seen his face on the back of Peter’s book. “Did you write The Pilgrim’s Regress?”

“Ah, yes I did. It’s been a long time since someone has mentioned that volume to me.” Mr Lewis grimaced as if hearing of his book embarrassed him.

“I thought it was a very lovely book.”

“Well, thank you.” Mr Lewis smiled, and then his eyes looked far into no particular distance. “There is a novel I’ve always wanted to write, but the plot just won’t work itself out for me. I only have this blasted image in my mind that has tormented me ever since I was sixteen.”

“Oh?” Susan encouraged Mr Lewis to continue.

“It’s this faun with an umbrella in one hand and an armful of parcels in his other as he walks through a snowy wood. I’m not sure who he is, or why he is carrying any of those things, or where he is going, or if the story is even about him. But I know that I must write the story.”

Susan felt all the blood leave her face. “Mr Tumnus,” she exclaimed.

“What was that you said?” Mr Lewis asked.

“He sounds like someone I knew whose name was Mr Tumnus,” Susan answered quietly, bumps prickling over her skin. How could this man have seen Mr Tumnus in his dreams?

But then, how could four children hide in a wardrobe and find themselves in a magical land with themselves a part of a great prophecy?

“You know,” Mr Lewis rubbed his chin, “that names seems to fit the faun in my dreams.”

Susan wanted to tell Mr Lewis all about Mr Tumnus and Narnia. But, as hard as she tried, she couldn’t make herself open her lips. So instead, she shoved the envelopes toward Mr Lewis. “Here, I want you to have these.”

“What is this?” Mr Lewis took the envelopes but looked to Susan for an answer. “A story?”

“It is … my story. I think it will help you with your dream,” Susan whispered. “But it will be hard to believe.”

Mr Lewis laughed, winking deeply. “All myths are hard to believe, but that only makes the great ones all the more beautiful once discovered.”

So Susan risked herself and said, “I know—knew—that faun you described. He lived in a land called Narnia.”

Mr Lewis laughed, “Narnia, eh?” and Susan was disappointed that she’d been so quick to trust the man.

But then Mr Lewis sobered and said it again, “Narnia.” A small trace of wonder and belief passed over his face, and he fingered the flap on the envelopes. “Why does it seem as if I’d heard of that place before?” he whispered—to himself or Susan, she didn’t know.

Susan smiled, knowing that she’d done right giving her memories to Mr Lewis.

Mr Lewis tucked the manuscript away in his briefcase and said, “Thank you.”

The train’s brakes began to screech, and the whistles blew loudly.

The train stopped slowly, and Mr Lewis stood. Susan followed, grabbing her purse. At the same time, she looked out the window and saw Carl standing on the platform, a stranger and a policeman at his side. With certainty, Susan knew they were looking for her to bring her away. But she felt no fear.

Something wonderful sounded in Susan’s ears. “Did you hear that?” Susan asked Mr Lewis.

“The whistle? It does make an awful racket, doesn’t it?” Mr Lewis turned and said.

“No … it is like a horn,” Susan said, then, quieter, “My horn.”

She felt the sound tugging her away and saw the image of Carl blurring. And suddenly, all she saw was beauty.

๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•

Mr Lewis was about to ask the young woman if someone was waiting for her when she tumbled forward, her eyes rolling back in her head. He caught her, and her body twisted in his arms, gasping for breath. Her purse fell to the ground, its contents spilling to the floor. And then, she was still.

“Help! Someone get a doctor.” Mr Lewis yelled.

But everyone around him only stared at the limp girl in his arms.

“Help, I said.” Mr Lewis yelled louder, and some of the people cleared as a policeman boarded.

“What is it?” the policeman demanded.

“A seizure,” Mr Lewis said, a bit uncertain himself. She had looked so healthy a moment before …

The policeman relieved Mr Lewis of the girl and checked her over.

“Susan?” A young man rushed from behind the policeman and fell by her side.

“You know this woman?” Mr Lewis asked the boy.

The young man looked up and nodded. “Yes. She’s my … girlfriend.”

The policeman looked up. “She’s dead.”

Mr Lewis paled.

Susan’s boyfriend did not look sorry. At first, Mr Lewis thought the man was relieved. But then Mr Lewis saw guilt written on the man’s face. Because he had been relieved? Or because of another reason altogether? But the young man scooped up Susan’s lifeless body and whispered, “I’m so, so sorry, Susan.”

Mr Lewis decidedly did not like the young man and felt only sorry that Susan knew him.

The train cleared, and Mr Lewis was left standing alone, shocked and surrounded by Susan Pevensie’s spilt purse. He bent over with a tear in his eye and put her things back inside.

His fingers trembled over an open compact mirror, turned upside down so that all he could see were the pinkish orange flowers painted on the case. Pieces of glass laid around the mirror, so he carefully picked it up and turned it over. He was surprised to see that most of the glass was still whole inside, only a sliver missing from the upper corner and a long crack spiraling through the center.

But he noticed none of this, for something odder struck him. He did not see his own reflection, but a moving image. A young woman with black hair that would have reached her feet if the wind didn’t blow it high ran toward a large lion.

Except it was unlike any lion he had ever seen before. Majestic, and very familiar, like a best friend, but more like a father. The girl hugged the lion, tears streaming down her face—and Mr Lewis recognized the face as Susan Pevensie’s.

But Mr Lewis only saw her face for a small moment before the lion drew all of his attention. Mr Lewis stared into the most glorious golden eyes he had ever seen, and then the lion spoke to him, “Write their stories, Jack.”

Mr Lewis yelled and nearly dropped the mirror. The lion disappeared from sight, and all Mr Lewis could see was his own face.

But he’d never forget what he’d seen in that mirror. He closed the mirror and carefully slid it into his briefcase, next to the envelopes.

๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•๐ŸŽ•

“Francis, you have a package! Do open it—it makes the most delightful sound when I rattle it.”

Francis looked up from his book, The Screwtape Letters. “You aren’t supposed to shake packages, Judy.”

Francis’ fianceรจ mocked a pout.

Francis laughed—it felt good to laugh at anything these days. Maybe that was why he loved Judy so much. Because she not only knew how to listen to him and have great talks, but she knew just how to cheer him up.

“Let’s see it and I’ll open it,” Francis said.

Judy’s face quickly turned back into a smile as she placed the package in Francis’ lap.

Francis stared at the package—there was no sender. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a penknife, then slit open the paper.

“Ooh.” Judy clenched Francis’ arm, as if terrified that a snake might pop out.

He tore away the paper to reveal a cigar box.

“Oh.” Judy’s hold on his arm loosened and her voice portrayed disappointment. “You won’t actually smoke those nasty things, will you?”

But Francis didn’t answer her question; instead, he asked another one. “Who would send me cigars?”

Francis opened the box and saw a flash of yellow and green.

“Rings?” Judy said, sounding intrigued once more.

A note laid on top, so Judy grabbed for it and read it out loud. “ ‘A wedding present. Maybe Aslan will let them work for you. From, Susan.’ Oh, how sweet. But who is Aslan? And who is Susan? And what does she mean by ‘work for you’?”

Francis smiled. “It’s a long story, Dear—you might think I’m crazy if I told you.”

“I don’t see how you could ever be crazier than me,” Judy retorted, as if offended that he’d even suggest otherwise.

“Fair enough.” Francis grinned.

But Francis’ grin dropped as a faint noise rose from out of the box. He looked up at Judy and saw, by the expression on her face, she could hear the musical buzz, too. And so Francis did not need to tell Judy, for they both quietly listened to the melody that told a story of a wood that led to many magical worlds. And it sang loudest of a certain world once called Narnia now passed away, but ready to be remade, and in need of a new king and queen.

Was Carl a very evil man, or perhaps a normal man who was willing to be complacent toward truth and unmotivated to shake up his ways? Can we learn anything from Carl in our own lives? 
How is Francis and Judy's relationship a nice contrast to Susan and Carl's? 
Were you happy to see Jack (C. S. Lewis) sitting next to Susan? Do you think he'll do a good job with Susan's manuscripts ;p 
Are you happy that Susan is now home at Narnia with her family? 

Links will be available when posts are published. 
A new installment will be posted the first Monday of every month: 
Prologue: Polly and Digory
Chapter One: The Mirror
Chapter Two: The Church
Chapter Three: The Friends
Chapter Four: The Party
Chapter Five: The Book
Chapter Six: The Hospital
Chapter Seven: The Kiss
Chapter Eight: The Dinner
Chapter Nine: The Rings
Chapter Ten: The Conversation
Chapter Eleven: The Cottage
AFTERWARD: Why I Wrote Susan Of Narnia 

Comments

  1. <3 I can't believe that it is over! You wrapped up the story perfectly!! Thank you so much for sharing, I loved it!!! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe it either! Or that it finished while I was in Germany ;) Thanks so much for reasons and enjoying! I'm so glad you found the ending satisfying.

      Delete
  2. That was an awesome ending! Perfect, I think! Love how she ran into Lewis and how it's almost like Susan wrote Narnia...

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    Replies
    1. Love how you added "I think". And yeah, Lewis and Susan together were my favorite! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Julian!

      Delete
  3. i loved this so much!!! <3 It's the ending we didn't know we needed til you gave it to us!!! You wrapped it up so perfectly!!

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    Replies
    1. Ah that's the best compliment ever, Lia! To be honest, I didn't know I needed it so much either until it was written, but I needed it so much.

      Delete
  4. You brought me to tears at the end, and I had goosebumps. I am so impressed by your writing style on this. You wrote so similarly to Lewis, and you used your words so economically. I hope that makes sense. This was a really satisfying story, and I'm going to keep it as headcanon for what happens to Susan. When I was 13, I wanted so badly to have more Narnia that I started writing a sequel that starred me and a few friends. I never finished it because it didn't work to insert real people into the story, and I felt embarrassed about it later. It was just a practice story for me. But this was lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes that makes sense... and your comment is so encouraging! Thank you so very much.

      And you shouldn't ever be embarrassed by earlier stories: without them a writer can't grow. And sometimes it's ok to just have fun with a story even if it can't go anywhere. I'm sure y'all made some lovely memories writing that ;)

      Delete
  5. *jaw. drops.* Wow. *stands and applauds*

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  6. This was so wonderful and direct and tender in Lewislike ways. It seems a shame that the story is engineered to never be salable.

    In writing this, you've corrected one of Lewis's flaws.

    Looking back, it seems like a much longer, meatier story than its wordcount could possibly be. But that too is Lewislike. LW&W is only 37.5k words. You really made it sing.

    What's next?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ohhh thank you so much! I tried to stay true to the warm, but deep nature of Narnia and reread the series many times to echo the spirit.

      I believe that's the beauty of a good fairytale: a good piece of meat with a tasty sauce.

      Again thanks so much!
      What's next? For this blog a Boxcar Children story, and for myself my own novels.

      Delete
  7. I somehow missed this?? But I love how you brought Lewis into the story and had Susan pass the story to him! I never would have expected that. And I definitely didn't expect Susan's story to end like that. But I can't help but be happy for her.

    I love the hopeful ending with Francis and Judy! Feel free to write their story for us now. xD

    theonesthatreallymatter.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahhh I'm so glad you love all the things I love ;D

      And I kinda want to ... those characters JUST happened. But I have so many other things to write ....

      Thanks so much for coming along with me on this story :)

      Delete

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