What if we are missing part of the story?
|What is this? This is the prologue to a story that will probably never be written. The plot came to me whilst "listening" to a sermon aimed at students half my age. My mind began to wander, and what came out was incredible. Set a decade or two in the future, this unwritten tale combines elements of religion, legend, history, science, and politics as we follow a young woman who found more than she bargained for in a nineteenth century shipwreck. Maybe one day I'll write more than just the first prologue. Maybe not. . . . Enjoy!
The Garden of Eden
Prologue Part 1: The Fall
Four feet dangled over the water’s edge, its transparent blue ripples lapping against the steep, clay shore. It was still light out, and a gentle breeze played through the tops of the trees, casting shadows that moved erratically over the flowing river. The man and the woman, their backs against a tree, sat facing the west into the wind, allowing it to blow against their bare skin, freeing them momentarily from the humidity of the day.
Both the man and the woman were naked, their dark skin neatly blurring into the dust on which they sat. They were lean but not thin, built but not muscular. They were healthy, and their skin glowed with it.
The man reached into the branches overhead, relieving one of its burden as he pulled off a fruit that dangled above his head. He took a bite, his teeth sinking into the soft flesh, causing its juices to burst into his mouth. He handed the rest of the fruit to the woman beside him as he savored the sweet taste, resting his head again against the back of the tree, allowing his eyes to close.
The woman took the fruit from his hand, and he smiled as he heard her mumble in enjoyment. He could hardly remember what it had been like before her. He simply remembered being alone. There had of course been other inhabitants of the Garden, innumerable creatures of every shape and habit. And in a place as this, he never could really be alone, even if he was the only of his kind. Nevertheless, he could not fight against his desire to belong. Everywhere he looked, he saw belonging, a fitting in with the natural way of things. Maybe he just came a day too late, but as he wandered the empty garden teeming with creatures, he could not help but be aware of his isolation. He was a man, a human, and there was no other like him. There can never be anything worse.
He opened his eyes and watched her toss the pit of the fruit into the river below. He would never forget that long-ago day when he awoke to see her standing above him. He could hardly speak. After all the feathered birds and fur-covered beasts, to at least see another of himself, to see one of his own kind, a man as he was, all he could feel was relief, fulfillment, peace. She was a woman as he was a man.
They had set off from there, he telling her of the vast garden in which they lived. He placed in her hands the fruit of each tree to taste and introduced her to every creature with whom they shared their home. They were as inseparable as light is from darkness, one always following the other, sometimes even blending together. They belonged together, and he felt she was a part of him with its own body, as if a bone from his near his heart had been taken from him and given new flesh. He thanked God for her, and she for him. It was love as it was meant to be, for they were one.
In time, the couple arose and began walking along the river, and it seemed as though all creation rose with them. A pair of doves landed momentarily at their feet before alighting back into the haze far above them. Some squirrels bounded from branch to branch above their heads, sending petals and leaves down in their wake. A lamb nibbled on a patch of grass behind a certain boulder, and just beyond, a lion enjoyed its own meal under the shade of a willow tree. The man and woman took notice of all this and smiled to each other. The garden was theirs, and so were the creatures in it. That was reason enough.
As they meandered along, the sky to their right grew darker. The air began to grow cooler, and the previously constant breeze came to a sudden rest. The wildlife around them also began to slow, the birds from their chirping and the four-legged animals from their wandering. Even the river seemed to sense the day’s end, the water level receding slightly, the waves crashing more softly along the shore.
They had come to the center of the garden when they finally decided to rest and eat. They had no trouble finding food, pulling freely from the abundance around them. The man grabbed a handful of blueberries and several figs before sitting down against one of the many trees. The woman joined him shortly thereafter, cradling the remains of a melon she had opened by beating it against a rock.
They ate in silence, content to rest in each other’s presence and the grandeur of their surroundings. The tree they leaned against created a lush canopy above their heads, a natural ceiling of interwoven branches. Brilliant flowers contrasted against the subtle greens of the large leaves, bright with life. The man tried to follow a branch from its origin at the trunk to its end, chasing the wood as it divided into multiple routes until it erupted in fits of leaves and the vibrant flowers, only to quickly hide behind other branches. And yet, however careful he was at following the trail of reddish-brown wood, he could never find a terminal branch: all seemed to start and end at the trunk of the tree. Bewildered, he instead tried to identify the tree’s countless flowers, but again gave up as he realized the impossibility of that task. There were flowers everywhere, each remarkably unique in size and color. Some were small, others large, one there with only three petals, another just above it with hundreds. Whenever his eyes caught sight of a particular one to show the woman, it would disappear, quickly replaced by another bloom. Yet, throughout all his searching, he did not find a single fruit. There were only flowers.
Finally, he reached up and picked a flower off of a branch, holding it under his gaze. It was as red as the sky in the morning before the sun made the horizon light, yet it had streaks of black that striped down the center of the five long petals. He showed it to the woman who smiled, taking it from him and twisting the stem behind her ear, the flower resting against her temple. He smiled in return and went back to his tree-gazing.
He was shaken from his contemplation by the sound of voices. He realized that the woman had been talking with someone else, perhaps for some time now. He immediately placed the second voice as coming from the silhouette of a slender animal hanging down from a branch of the tree before the woman, the remainder of its long body twisted around the trunk as though choking it. The air had been growing much darker, and it was difficult to distinguish what exactly it was that the voice belonged to.
“Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” the other asked incredulously. They were obviously in mid-conversation, and the man wondered how their talk had progressed to this point.
The woman shook her head, replying in as quiet and innocent a voice as the other, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but God did say, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, neither should you touch it, lest you die’.” She looked over at the man for verification of this statement, and he nodded in agreement.
The Other let out an apologetic laugh as it descended from the tree and sunk its claws into the ground. “You will not surely die,” he said, emphasizing the last word. He sauntered toward the woman, flicking his long tongue in and out of its triangular head in time with his approach. He had a long, sinewy body that writhed back and forth as he walked. The man had never seen the likes of him before, but decided then and there that he should be called a serpent. “God knows,” the serpent continued, though quieter now, as though telling some terrible secret, “that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He finished, his face hardly more than tongue’s flick away from the woman’s. He let out a breathy hiss and twisted his head, his tongue nearly catching the flower from behind her ear. The blossom seemed to writhe and wither under his gaze, yet like so many other things, it passed unnoticed. Abruptly, he motioned for her to follow him and took off to their right, around the tree.
The woman looked at the man, the concern in her face not completely masking the curiosity. The man gave her and her flower a shrug and rose to his feet, helping her up as he did so. They quickly followed the remnants of the serpent’s form in the twilight.
The man tried to appear disinterested, but this proved hard to maintain. His mind was aflutter with possibilities, hypotheticals, what-ifs, all nagging at the edge of his conscious mind. Was it possible that what the serpent said was true? Could the fruit of that tree really have such power as to give them the knowledge of—what was it? Good and evil? What if God was simply being greedy, keeping that power to himself with them now none the wiser? They could eat from all the other trees, so why not this one? Why even put it in the garden if it was simply untouchable? They could be like God! Surely that would be a good thing, for God was good, was He not? This serpent was accusing the character of God, and with that tiny fracture in the boundary of God’s enveloping presence, now a chafing restriction, the man had begun to fantasize about higher pleasures waiting just beyond the choice to shake off the shackles of God’s restrictive governance.
The serpent finally stopped at the base of a tree not quite unlike the one they had just been sitting under. The only difference was that instead of countless flowers speckling the verdant covering, each branch was weighed down with more than a dozen fruit each. But just as the flowers were all different, so was the fruit of this tree. The man and the woman stood with their mouths wide open, gazing at the tree and its plethora of fruit. Some were brightly colored, others dull; some were large and bent their branches tremendously while others grew in bunches like grapes. They were beautiful, appeared delicious, and now sparked a taunting desire, a desire to do nothing else than to find the best one and take and eat. Surely, the fruit looked as though it would bring them some knowledge, and whether it would stop at good and evil was doubtful.
Perhaps if they had taken a moment to regard the serpent in all of this, they could have seen the first selfish smile in history trace its path across his face.
It took several minutes, but at last they decided on the perfect fruit. Since the lowest branches were far above their heads, the man put the woman on his shoulders so she could reach the fruit. His legs wobbled a little as he lifted her up, and she screamed as she put a hand against the tree to steady herself. There was a moment of silence, but she soon shattered it with a fit of laughter, made giddy by the hilarity of almost falling. The man began to laugh as well, apologizing between breaths for nearly dropping her.
Neither noticed the serpent had disappeared the moment the woman touched the tree.
When they had recovered from their laughter, both still smiling, the woman plucked the perfect fruit from its branch. It came off easily, almost as though it was perfectly ripe, fated to have fallen moments later of its own accord. She had merely saved it a fall.
She hardly waited a moment before taking a bite, handing the rest to the man who also took a bite. Neither took more than a bite, but it was enough.
It was the was best fruit he had ever tasted. He looked down as he chewed, enjoying the taste, the texture, the small seed that rolled over his tongue. . . .
He stopped chewing. He stopped thinking. He stopped tasting. Had he control over it, his heart would no doubt have stopped beating. All he could do was stare at his bare skin. All of it. His face flushed red, his heartbeat quickening. How foolish could he be? How could he have been walking naked with no shame? And all this time with a woman? Why had he not noticed before?
The woman let out a startled scream a split second before he tossed her from his shoulders. Only this time, there was no laughter to follow the scream, no hilarity of this fall, only the rustling of leaves as each ran from the other with a mixture of humiliation and disgrace. Neither looked back. It would never be the same. They could never go back now. They knew now. They had been given knowledge as they wished, and now, like a fish who throws himself out of the water upon the dry land only to find he cannot breathe, they wished they could go back. For they could not breathe. It was too painful. All they could do was hide and hope to forget.
But it was made all the worse when God came looking for them. As if He did not already know. . . .
The sky was just starting to lighten when Adam and Eve took their first step out of the garden. Both were clothed now, sheepskin staining their previously bare shoulders. They had mourned the loss of the lambs that were now hiding their shame, but their embarrassment was still there. Their nakedness had been a symbol of their paradise, and now they would ever be clothed, for paradise was no longer theirs.
The last several hours had been hell on earth. They cursed each other, they cursed themselves, they cursed the serpent. They even cursed God. God, the maker of the garden, the creator of the fruit, the architect of themselves. It would have been more practical to have tried to cut down the tree that had damned them. It had been the end of paradise, and now they faced the wilderness that awaited them.
As they took their next step, a blazing fire erupted behind them, covering the entrance to the garden. Adam and Eve were thrown off their feet, landing on their stomachs several yards from where they had stood. It was over. There was no going back now.
They walked off into the world, hand in hand. The garden was gone, and all that remained of paradise were their memories.
And a flower in Eve’s hair.
And a seed in Adam’s mouth.