The Disestablishment of Paradise

The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann

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Authors: Phillip Mann
special praise, Shapiro goes so far as to suggest that it is our own darkness that is being
reflected in Paradise. What does he mean by this? Unable to find a decent theory, unable to accept his own failure to protect the planet placed under his care, he turns in desperation to mysticism
of a kind which once sent people to be burned at the stake. Our darkness! Does he think there is a devil in human beings, or that we carry some mental pestilence which can strike down alien life
forms? Surely, Dr Melhuish, this is the stuff of dotage. The tragedy is made worse, however, by the fact that this deluded old man was able to put his dark imprint on a mind as fine and gifted as
your own, and that you then perpetuated his heresy, thereby discrediting yourself and the able scientists who have had the misfortune to be associated with you.’
    ‘Not at all. It is a well argued—’
    ‘It is fantasy and dark metaphysics and you should be honest enough to admit it.’
    ‘No. Let me sp—’
    ‘Scaremongering, then.’
    Hera was now up on her feet. ‘No. Shapiro was—’
    ‘You agree with him. You are an advocate of mystical science. So tell me, Dr Melhuish, whose shadow is being reflected by the hostility of Paradise? The poor farmers who plant the seeds
and whom you have treated so badly, or is it your darkness, Dr Melhuish?’
    ‘Shapiro was merely setting out some ideas. Things for people to think about. Good God! When you stop people doing that, we really are in trouble. Next you’ll be burning books,
kicking down doors and starting a witch hunt.’
    At that moment there was a commotion on the balcony above Hera. Proctor Newton was on his feet and pointing down at Hera. ‘It’s you,’ he shouted. ‘You are the witch. You
are the black witch of Paradise.’ And before anyone could stop him, he picked up the wooden chair on which he had been seated and threw it down at Hera.
    The chair struck her on the shoulder. One of the legs hit her in the neck and tore her ear. She was knocked over by the weight of the chair and fell against the stage. The last thing she saw,
the last thing she remembers, was faces staring down at her. Proctor Newton had grown huge bat ears and his nostrils were flared like those of a horse, and the hands that gripped the balcony rail
were giant claws with bronze talons. She saw Stefan Diamond open his mouth and a vast blue and fork-tipped tongue came poking out, flapping and feeling towards her.
    That is what she remembers.
    What she does not remember was the shouting in the room and the people on the balcony grabbing Proctor Newton and dragging him back. Nor does she remember the young man, Kris, running forward
and lifting her up. And the chairman shouting for calm. Nor does she remember struggling to her feet and being supported, cradling her arm and leaning back against the table. She does not even
remember speaking. But this is what happened, no matter what fantasies her mind dreamed up.
    She said – and she was looking up at Proctor Newton, pinned now between two other men – ‘You must hate me very much. Very much. But you have said a wicked thing, and a wrong
thing. I never wished you harm, but you would never listen – and now, and now we have all lost Paradise. I am not a witch. How could you think that? I would have given my life to save
Paradise. I would have given my life to see just once the great Dendron striding on the plain. But so much has been lost, and we must find out why. We must . . .’
    And at that point she did faint.
    What is one to make of this hearing? On the surface it seems unfair and hurried, but one suspects that a longer hearing would have ended with the same result. Having read all
the papers and transcripts, I have to admit that the correspondence used in evidence at the hearing shows Dr Melhuish as a woman at the end of her patience – angry and undiplomatic. And one
might also argue that Hera Melhuish showed bad judgement in leaving such a

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