A retelling of the Fall as a prologue to a greater story.
|Prologue: The Fall|
Four feet dangled over the water’s edge, the transparent blue ripples lapping against the steep, clay shore. It was still light out, and the shadows moved erratically over the flowing river as a gentle breeze blew through the tops of the trees. The man and the woman sat facing the west toward the source of 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 nearly blending with the dust upon 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 up into the tree their backs were leaning against and pulled off a fruit that dangled above his head. He took a bite into it, his teeth sinking into the soft flesh, causing the juices inside to burst into his mouth. He handed the rest of the fruit to the woman as he savored the sweet taste, resting his head again against the back of the tree, closing his eyes.
The woman took the fruit from his hand, and he smiled as he heard her mumble in enjoyment of its taste. He could hardly remember what it had been like before her. He simply remembering being alone, of being surrounded by innumerable creatures and yet being incredibly alone.
He opened his eyes and watched her throw the pit of the fruit into the river below their feet. He would never forget when he awoke that long-ago day 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, 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 gave her the fruit of each tree to taste, introduced her to the names of the animals with whom their garden was shared. They were as inseparable as light is from darkness, one always following the other, sometimes even blending together. He felt she was a part of him with its own body, like a bone 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 joined with them. A pair of doves landed momentarily at their feet before alighting backing 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 began to grow darker. The air began to grow cooler, and the breeze that had been blowing for several hours stopped. 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.
They had come to the center of the garden when they finally decided to rest and eat. The man grabbed a handful of blueberries and several figs before sitting down against a tree. The woman joined him shortly thereafter with a melon that she had opened from beating it against a rock.
They ate in silence, reveling in each other and their surroundings. The branches of the tree they leaned against created a sort of canopy over their heads. Brilliantly-colored flowers contrasted against the subtle greens of the broad leaves. It was beautiful to behold. The man tried to follow a branch from where it came off the tree to its end, chasing the wood as it divided into multiple routes, erupted in fits of leaves and those vibrant flowers, and hid behind other branches. And yet, however careful he was at following the reddish-brown wood, he could never find any terminal branches: they all seemed to start and end at the trunk of the tree. Bewildered, he instead tried to identify the countless flowers on the tree, but again gave up as he realized the impossibility of that task. There were flowers everywhere, each a different color and style, some small, others large, one here with only three petals, another just above it with hundreds. Whenever his eyes would try to find a particular one to show the woman, it would seemingly disappear to be replaced by another. Yet, throughout all his searching, not a single fruit could he find. There were only flowers.
Finally, he reached up and picked a flower off of a branch and looked at it. It was as red as the sky in the morning before the sun made the sky 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 placing the peduncle (stem) in her hair behind her ear, the flower resting against her temple. He smiled in return and went back to his tree-gazing.
It was during this contemplation of the tree that he noticed the woman was engaging herself in a conversation with someone else. He immediately placed the second voice as coming from the silhouette of a slender animal handing down from a branch of the tree before the woman. It had been growing much darker, and it was difficult to distinguish what exactly it was 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 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 set its claws on the ground. “You will not surely die,” he said, emphasizing the last word. He walked up to the woman, his tongue flicking in and out of its triangular head at her. 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 as though telling a secret, “that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” By then, his face was right up against the woman’s. 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 the flower in her hair a shrug and got to his feet, helping her up as he did so. They quickly followed what they could see of the serpent in the twilight.
The man tried to appear disinterested, but it was hard to. His mind was aflutter with possibilities, hypotheticals, what-ifs. 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 an untouchable? They could be like God! Surely that would be a good thing, for God was good, was He not?
The serpent stopped at the base of a tree not unlike the one they had just been sitting under. The only difference was that instead of countless flowers speckling the green leaf covering, each branch was weighed down with 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 and appeared delicious, and they now desired 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 they at last 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. He wobbled a little as he lifted her up, and she screamed as she put a hand against the tree to stabilize herself. There was a moment of silence, but the woman broke it with a sudden fit of laughter, the hilarity of almost falling hitting her. The man began to laugh as well, apologizing between breaths for almost dropping her.
Neither noticed the serpent had left the moment the woman had touched the tree.
When they had recovered from their laughter, both still smiling, the woman plucked off the perfect fruit from its branch. It came off easily, almost as though it was ripe enough to have fallen off on its own several moments later.
She hardly waited a moment before taking a bite, handing the rest to the man who also took a bite.
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 was included in the bite. . . .
He stopped chewing. He stopped thinking. He stopped tasting. All he could do was stare at his bare skin. All of it. His face flushed red, his heartbeat quickened. 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, and everything that went along with it.
The sky was just starting to lighten when Adam and Eve took their first step out of the garden. Both were clothed now with sheepskin, but the embarrassment was still there, though now only partially due to their previous nakedness.
The last several hours had been hell on earth. They cursed each other, they cursed themselves, they cursed the serpent, they even cursed God. 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 and landed 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 now of paradise they had only their memories. And a flower in Eve’s hair. And a seed in Adam’s mouth.