Eve sighed. She was sitting under a tree whose limbs were bent with the weight of ripe kiwi fruits, all ready to burst with juice. A nightingale hovered near, warbling sweetly. Butterflies in a thousand different colors danced about, occasionally alighting on her for a moment. The sun's warmth caressed her gently.
She was bored.
She had spent days flitting about the Garden, eating every fruit, smelling every flower, gazing at every wonder the Garden offered. It was glorious the first time she saw it, beautiful the second, familiar and pleasant the third, and boring forever after. She had loved it once, but she had seen and done everything at least a dozen times. There was not a corner of the Garden she did not know, not a plant she had not sampled, not an animal that had not slumbered with its head in her lap. There was nothing new. Eat and sleep and eat again, forever, with no changes, ever. She had come into existence with a passionate desire to know herself and the universe. Now she knew them. Was this all the universe had to offer her? And why was it becoming so difficult to discover anything new about herself? Was she, too, far too finite for her own satisfaction?
Adam stood some distance away under a tree, eating its yellow fruits. He was watching the movements of a family of chipmunks, a smile of simple contentment on his face. Adam was never bored. He could watch the same thing a thousand times and never be bored. Eve watched him enviously. It must be wonderful to be so easily entertained. Adam had been in the Garden for longer than she, yet he never tired of seeing always the same sights, of repeating the same actions every day.
Eve watched the bird and the butterflies morosely. If she could fly, she wouldn't be so bored. If God had wanted her and Adam to have dominion over every animal, why had he given some of the animals greater freedom? She should be in the air. She would be able to feel the wind all over her, even on the bottoms of her feet, and see everything, the whole Garden, from high above, and move faster than anything on land .
A masked cardinal suddenly fluttered out of the tree above her, chirping loudly, and a feather drifted down to the ground. Eve picked it up and examined it. The bird's wings, she knew, were made of dozens of these feathers, and this was what gave it the power of flight she so coveted. If only she had many of these, she could fly, too . She held the feather and smiled. Then she rose to her hands and knees and began to crawl, searching the ground.
"What are you doing?" Adam asked when she neared him.
"Picking up all the feathers," she answered.
"Oh," he said, unsurprised. Such useless activities were not uncommon pastimes for them. He paid no attention to her as she continued her search. Every few minutes she returned to the plum tree with her load, letting the feathers fall in a brightly colored heap beneath the branches. She searched under every tree and bush; she crawled between the grasses in the field; she walked the shore of the lake; she looked over the sandy stretch beside the ocean. She picked up every feather she found, of any size or color, even if it was torn and ragged. She walked slowly, glancing behind her every few seconds to see if she had dropped any of her feathers. When she thought she had gathered them all, she returned to look at her pile, and was unsatisfied. It was not enough. She set out once again, walking more slowly, her eyes on the ground, careful not to miss a spot. She found smaller, dirty scraps of feathers that had been half buried longer than she had lived. She found the tiny, fluffy remnants of down, discarded by birds and scattered by the wind. She looked carefully among the deep grasses, finding hidden feathers in every corner. She gathered them all painstakingly, and then she carried them back to the plum tree.
The pile reached her knees and was wildly colorful. Interspersed with the gray, brown, white and occasionally black feathers were bright pinks, reds, blues, and greens. Some feathers were as long as her forearm, others scarcely the length of her smallest knuckle. She sat under the tree with this jumbled assortment, smiling at the variety. Then she took a handful to see how she could do what she intended to do.
She had to arrange all these feathers and then somehow make them cling to her arms. They each had sharp, pointed ends; perhaps they would stick in her flesh. She took one and jabbed it into her wrist. Wincing, she cast about for a new solution.
Eve thought a moment, then ran to the lake and scooped up a handful of wet mud. When she reached the plum tree, she spread it on her arm and then set several feathers into it. She stood in the sun for a moment, letting it dry a little, and then she waved her arm vigorously. The feathers fell to the ground. Annoyed, she regathered them and then ran back to the lake to wash the mud from her arm. She would have to secure them in some other way, but how?
She frowned in concentration, trying to think of all the things that could make feathers stick to her skin. After several moments, she had thought of only one thing: sap. She was always noticing leaves and bits of bark stuck in the little drops of sap that oozed down the sides of trees, especially pine trees. She jumped up and ran to the nearest pine tree to gather all the sap she could find on a piece of back she tore from the tree's side. It was not enough. She went to another pine tree, and another, and another, getting the sticky sap all over her hands. Her fingers stuck together. She moved them apart gently, testing the sap's strength. If she found enough, it should hold.
She hurried back to her pile of feathers with the pieces of bark that carried the pine sap. On the way she passed Adam, who was ambling to the sea to play in the salty waves. He scarcely glanced at her; he was watching a panther gliding over the ground with effortless grace. Eve, too, stopped to watch it for a moment. Then she continued to the feathers.
Dropping down beside her pile, she set the sap aside and thought about how to assemble her wings. A crow swooped down to bow to her, and she quickly reached out to stroke him, for as long as she stroked him he would not leave, and she wanted to look at his wings. She studied the arrangement of his feathers, carefully noting each detail. When she had memorized the way his feathers lay against each other, she withdrew her hand and the crow flew away, calling loudly. Then she turned back to her pile and began to sort her feathers according to their sizes.
When she had finished sorting them, she took the sap and began to assemble them. She tried to make the biggest feathers stick together side by side, but the only way was to put sap over the little threads on their sides, and it seemed that this would spoil them for flying. She thought of the crow's wings. The bottom feathers all had something to support them. Eve looked around, then picked up a stick, broke off all the twigs and dead leaves, and began to attach them, using the sticky sap, to the stick.
It was harder to attach the second layer of feathers. After much struggling and much more sap on her hands, Eve decided to use a second stick. She would find some way to attach the sticks to each other when she was finished. When she had almost finished making the second layer, it suddenly occurred to her that she would need two wings. Sighing with impatience, she tossed the stick she was working on aside and went back to the first, pulling off half the feathers. When she was gluing them to a new stick, she noticed that the feathers were falling off the first two sticks. She threw her work out of the way, annoyed, and reached to press them back into the sap. A few moments later, however, they were already falling off again.
She dropped it all now, discouraged. She could have saved herself all that trouble and believed Adam when he had told her that she couldn't fly. But then, if she had believed, what would she have done today? At least the useless activity had passed some time. She went to the sea to see if Adam were still there. He was far away from the sand, letting the waves move him up and down and under them, rising to the surface with a contented smile. Porpoises leapt and dove in perfect arcs beside him. One rose under him, lifting Adam as it made its leap, then letting him fall laughing from its back. Far out to sea, she could see the tall spouts of whales shooting water to the sky. She stood beside the palm trees, watching him, wondering if she wanted to play in the sea today. She thought of how the salt clung to her skin and hair, and about how long she would have to swim in the lake to get it all off. But what else was there to do?
She sat down on the sand and picked up a palm frond to play with, still trying to decide if she wanted to go into the sea. She waved the frond in the wind, feeling the air resist it. She seized two of them and ran as fast as she could down the beach, holding them out, pretending she was a bird. The fronds were a lot like wings. Eve stopped running and looked at them. Then she started picking up all the fallen palm fronds on the ground. When she had gathered as many as she could carry, she stood ready to run again. She dashed forward at her greatest speed, and then, at the speed's height, she jumped, as she had on her first day in the Garden.
She hit the ground just as painfully as she had on that first day, too. Her breath knocked out, she gasped and groaned and rolled over on the sand. It hadn't worked. That was all she could think about, in spite of the aching of the bruises which were already beginning to form. It hadn't worked, and she would never be able to fly. She just hadn't done it right.
So perhaps if she tried again, she could do it right. She looked at the palm fronds again. The handfuls she had held them in were nothing like the arrangement of a bird's wings. She would have to put them in the proper order. But how to hold them? Sap would not be strong enough, she knew. Neither would any amount of dried mud. Perhaps the long, thin leaves of the palm fronds would hold them together, if she wrapped them around. But how could she make them stay around? She took one of the leaves and twisted it around the stalk. She twisted the ends around each other, but they unwound themselves as soon as she let go. She grimaced at the leaf, thinking of the time she had spent with her fingers covered with sap and feathers. Then she went to get some sap.
She returned to the beach with a piece of bark heaped with the pale brown sap. Biting her lip in concentration, she pasted the ends together. Then she lifted the stalk. The leaf fluttered in the wind, came unglued, and fluttered to the ground. She made an angry noise and seized another leaf, twisting it around the stalk furiously. Then she threw it onto the sand in rage.
When she looked at the stalk on the ground, she saw that the leaf was still coiled around it. She picked it up and held it to the wind. Its ends waved in the air, but the leaf stayed. She studied it. Something about the way it was wrapped was keeping it secure. One end went over the other, and then under, and it stayed. She found another leaf and tried to duplicate the way the first twisted around. The leaf was soon in shreds, but Eve would not give up; now she had found a way. She tried again and again, destroying a dozen leaves, before one of them suddenly did what she wanted. She tried again. The leaf obeyed her. Now she knew how to fasten the leaf securely. Smiling, she gathered the fronds, held them so that their shape was similar to that of a bird's wings, and tied the leaves around them. She used many leaves, far more than she really needed, to be sure they would hold. It took dozens of leaves and ten palm fronds, but when she sat back to look at her work, there were two great wings, sized perfectly for her, ready for her use. She used a few more leaves to tie them to her arms at her shoulders, elbows and wrists. Then she stood upon the sand, her face radiant and glowing with triumph, her arms spread out to show the great span of her wings.
She looked up to the sun, letting it blind her. The light of her joy was greater than its light. The wind tugged gently at her great wings, calling them to rise with her upon them. The hot sand burned her feet with sudden intensity, as if wishing to claim her once more before she escaped it.
Smiling eagerly, she ran to the rocks which reached far out in the waves. The highest point of the farthest one rose well above the water; if Adam could stand upon the surface with his arms stretched over his head, the tip of his longest finger would reach the top. She clambered over the rocks, careful of her wings as they waved in the breeze and brushed against the stones' sharp points. She climbed to the highest point and stood there for a moment, looking down at the sea and over the beach, and at all the land she would soon be soaring far above. Then, with a deep breath, she raised her wings, feeling the strength of the wind against them. She flapped strongly, majestically, a few times, and then, pushing against the rock with her toes, lifted her feet into the air.
For an instant she soared. A breath later she was plummeting down to the water. She hit it with such force that her skin stung. Her nose and mouth filled with salty water. She worked her way to the surface to gasp for breath, but her movements were slow and clumsy with the damp palm fronds clinging to them. Thrashing at the water and choking, she headed for the beach, but a great wave swelled, seized her, and slammed her against the rocks.
She swam back feebly, wincing at the sting of the salt water flowing over her wounds. When another wave crashed just as it reached her, she let it carry her back to shore. The thousands of tiny shells in the sand scraped her as the wave set her down, and she crawled onto the dry sand, leaving a few scattered drops of bright red blood behind her.
When she was safely away from the water, she wearily pulled the palm fronds off her arms and examined her wounds. They were only scrapes and scratches, but the salt from the sea made them sting urgently. She picked herself up and dragged her feet behind her as she made her way to the lake to wash the salt off.
She sat in the cool water of the lake for a long time, gently rubbing her scrapes and trying not to think of her failure. Adam, she knew, was still riding the waves. He hadn't even noticed her when she had climbed the rocks and leaped from them. She sighed and slipped underwater, feeling the coolness all around her. Flying would have felt something like this. Swimming was the next best thing. She broke the surface, shook her head to clear the water from her face, and then stared, transfixed.
On the shore of the lake, watching her, was an animal like none she had ever seen before. She had thought she had seen all of the animals of the Garden, but this one was new and unfamiliar. He was as tall as she was, but far longer. His gracefully sinuous body was covered with glittering golden and green scales. On his slim back was folded a pair of powerful wings. When she surfaced, he made the same respectful gestures to her that the other animals made, but there was something different about his manner when he made them.
She swam slowly to the shore, not taking her eyes off him for a moment. He was one of the most beautiful creatures Eve had ever seen. She walked out of the water and approached him. She walked all around him, looking. He had a long, tapering tail coiled around his feet. When she reached his head, she stroked him gently, and then said aloud, not expecting an answer, "What are you?"
The creature answered, "I am a serpent."
She started. "What?" she gasped.
"I am a serpent, Eve."
She frowned. "I thought that animals couldn't talk."
The serpent smiled. "I am very different from all of the other animals in this Garden. I have much greater knowledge, and greater powers. There are many things I can do."
Eve stroked his long, slim neck. "Like fly," she said softly, looking at his wings. "I wish I could fly."
"Oh! Is that what you were trying to do out there on the rocks?"
Eve felt an unpleasant sensation of warmth. She didn't want anyone to have seen her failure. "You saw me?" she asked.
"Yes. I wondered what you were trying to do. So you were trying to find a way to fly?" He smiled. "You needn't have tried so hard. Climb on my back, and I'll take you flying."
Her face lit up, and without another word she stepped upon his back. His scales were cool and smooth. He spread his wings, and their span was twice that of his long, slender body. In a moment they were high in the air, high enough that Eve could touch the clouds, and everything in the Garden was much smaller and seemed not at all confining in their constant sameness, upon the serpent's back.