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The Writing Lion

By Ivan Karasev

Once upon a time there was a man. And nothing on earth did he like so much as drawing intricate signs. Writing on paper was becoming the point of his life. He could hardly imagine himself without that meticulous writing. He was inventing new alphabets and new handwritings, and when he seemed to have sifted all their possible forms and combinations, he would suddenly see new horizons open before him. And again the quill would race over the paper, now freezing, now going on with its indefatigable dance. Sometimes it would seem as if the hand were asleep, the pen leading it by itself on some external will.
The man could not tell whence had he got such a yearning to writing. And one day, when he was working carefully on his new cryptograms, he saw a huge spider fall on his sheet of paper. The man was first taken aback, but then flew into a rage: 
“How dare you, o nullity, spoil the hard labour of all my life?” 
So he said, and crushed the spider to death with his paint-brush.
Some time passed. Mountains of sheets were covered with the man’s letters done in hundreds of exquisite handwritings. But the calligarapher died, and his spirit flew beyond the boundaries of existence. Everything he had accumulated left him irreversibly. The man’s soul was trying to take to writing, but there was only a dry branch instead of a brush in his hand, and only water instead of paper. Everything written on sand was being turned into nothing by wind, while writing on water was utterly senseless.
“Wasn’t it the same way in my lifetime,” his soul thought, “ being a man I thought I was writing important books, now, it turned out I was just pouring the ink out into water or scribbling with twigs on dry sand”.
Some time passed. And the man’s soul settled in a lion’s body. However, the passion for writing did not leave him. The kingly lion became a hermit, and his conduct was beyond understanding of other animals. The lion did not write with a brush on paper, neither did he scribble with twigs on sand. He kept his poems and scientific treatises in his brain. He was glad to have mastered a new, more perfect type of handwriting. In his mind’s eyes he saw himself scribbling with a brush on a sheet of paper, and he remembered everything to the last little detail. Nothing else did he do.
One day, while composing his new poem, he came across a hunter. The hunter was first taken aback, but then flew into a rage: the lion had frightened away all his game. The hunter raised up his sharp spear and run it through him. 
Before his death the lion recollected the spider crushed down with a brush.

And the quill froze up, my hand immobile,
And the ink dried up in what was written
As the setting sun I saw just go by.
And my hand froze up, the quill immobile.
Something wayward in the look was hidden,
While my thought seemed drowned, by abyss swollen,
Adding some new signs to what was written,
But my quill in hand asleep had fallen…

(Translated by Marina Martinova)