The Secret Book of Paradys (114 page)

BOOK: The Secret Book of Paradys
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“I saw her once,” said Leocadia firmly. “She must have died, because she was a ghost.”

And Leocadia thought,
How wise and elegant I’ve become, with ninety years
. And again, click.

“But here she is too,” said the young photographer, “and here, dancing with a young child – it’s charming.”

“God knows who she is,” said Leocadia. She thought,
But I know her really. She’s the young virgin at the Sabbat, before the cocks crow. Through her the power comes, to remake things

She thought,
And through me. Something I did. I made a world. I gave it life. And the sun and the moon

Leocadia dreamed that one day she would be painting among her solid statues of ice and flowers that did not die, and a touch would come on her shoulder, or something harmless would be thrown at her neck. And she would turn to find the path into
, which she had earned, and which was, presumably, only the afterlife.

When the photographer went away, bubbling with fizzy youth, to write a whole book about her, Leocadia went up to her studio, unhaunted by the deaths of Nanice and Asra.

She stood among the canvases and considered. Possibly death did not matter. Possibly stupidity and cruelty, banality and rheumatism (which even the best drugs could not quite dispel) did not count.

What counted, then?

Why, what we want. What we truly desire.

“Write,” said Leocadia, “in the great fat tome of time. Real desire, of any sort, is what counts.”

And when she was one hundred and five and a half, Leocadia was painting the Penguin Land in her studio, slowly, because her hand was stiff. When in the ice sculpture before her, beyond the picture, she caught an image.

It was of a girl – two girls, but one not long ago a child. And both had marmalade hair.

She heard their laughter like distant bells.

Leocadia imagined that behind her the wall had opened, and there lay heaven, with snow and flowers, a sea of golden wine, a penguin king and a queen in a crown of ice.

If she means it, the minx, she’ll throw a snowball at me. Then I’ll look round and it will be there, and I can go in

And Leocadia would be young. And though it might not be forever, it would be, at least, for one long, shining day.

And then the snowball, which was warm as toast, struck her shoulder.


“Fatalistic explorations of a city so sinister it makes H.P. Lovecraft look suburban … a high-quality mixing of eroticism, horror, and aestheticism…. Superb.”

Chicago Sun-Times

“Tanith Lee is an elegant, ironic stylist… one of our very best authors. The prose is powerful, as well as stylish, and the characterizations are acute.


“Gorgeous, intoxicating, appalling … Paradys brings to mind M. John Harrison’s
and Lawrence Durrell’s A

Washington Post Book World

“Top-notch demonology and atmosphere … it is Lee’s talent for realizing an exquisite and appalling mingling of lust and horror, sexual pleasure and loathing, yearning and revulsion, that drives the book and its readers form cover to cover… Enthralling.”

(Starred Review)

BOOK: The Secret Book of Paradys
5.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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