Chapter Five

Eve wiped the sweat from her eyes with the back of her hand. Then she bent over once more to dig further into the ground. She was standing in her hole, the one she had dug to discover why things fell down. Her curiosity refreshed, she had returned to the hole to try again. The ground was well above her head when she stood in the hole now, and she crouched at the bottom, covered with red clay, loosening the dirt with a stick.

The past few days had been busy and pleasant. She had learned to mimic the singing of birds by puckering her lips and blowing. Then she had learned the songs and calls of all the birds in the Garden; the flamingo, the sparrow, the peacock, the owl, and every other as well. This had delighted her especially because for once Adam had shared her enthusiasm. While he usually greeted her experiments with bewilderment, this time he had been thrilled by her new ability. After spending a day learning how to imitate the birds, she had found him and stood before him in the changing light of sunset and moonrise, whistling, singing and calling. He had stared, a gleeful smile slowly spreading over his face. When she had finished, he had jumped with delight and then seized her hands, demanding to be told how to whistle. She had taught him what she had learned, and they had spent all night whistling at each other, telling each other things in a language they did not understand.

The next day she had run through the forest whistling, and a bee buzzed past her ear. She hummed, duplicating the sound of its flight. Then, inspired, she had searched the Garden looking for new noises to copy. She learned to make a noise like the waves of the sea, and she whistled and hummed and rumbled all day, rearranging the sounds to suit her, delighting in this choreography. At moonrise, when the crickets began to sing, she learned their song too, and wove it into her other songs. Adam listened, perplexed but interested, recognizing the noises but not enjoying the beauty of their arrangement as Eve did.

Eve had spent many days making songs, and she still loved them, but this could not occupy her forever. One day, as she sat silently under a peach tree, trying to think of something to do, suddenly there was the serpent beside her. He had come from the forest behind her, but she had not heard a sound. Unfolding and refolding his wide, glittering wings, he bowed to her and said, "Why aren't you trying to fly anymore? Is something wrong?"

Eve smiled. "No. I just can't think of anything to do. I failed at flying, and I didn't find out what makes things go down, and—"

"What? What makes things 'go down'?"

She sighed. "I noticed that everything kept falling down, that everything was attracted to the ground. Even birds must stop there once in a while. I wanted to know what caused it, so I dug a deep hole, but all I found was dirt, and I still don't know why everything falls down."

The serpent threw back his magnificent head and roared with laughter. Eve frowned at him, confused and annoyed. "What's wrong?" she snapped. Then she recalled that on her first day in the Garden, Adam had laughed at her whenever she did not know something that he knew well. She stood up, staring intently at the serpent's face. "Do you know what makes things fall down?" she asked in a gasping voice.

The serpent, with a great effort, stopped his laughter, but he still wore a broad smile. "No," he said gently. "It's just that… it's so wonderful that you could even think of a question like that, let alone search for the answer. That question has never even occurred to me, and I know many secrets. And would Adam ever ask a question like that?"

She thought of Adam's astonishment at her curiosity. "Never," she said. "He would just accept it." And then she asked, "What secrets do you know?"

The serpent's smile faded. "None that concern you. Never mind; they're not important. And you'll probably find them out all by yourself."

Eve was annoyed. She had already explained to him that whether it concerned her or not, if there was something to be known, she wanted to know it. However, she did not continue with her questions. Instead, she sat down again, making herself comfortable. He peered at her curiously. "So, with this great, vast Garden at your disposal, and so many things here that exist solely for your amusement, you have nothing to do? There's not one small thing you haven't explored? You can't try some new fruit, or explore some new corner, or meet some new animal, or—"

"That's the problem!" she burst out suddenly. "I've already seen and done everything that the Garden has to offer! I know it all by heart, I've sampled everything a dozen times. There's nothing different and nothing new to find out about! I already know about everything!" She wearily lowered her head into her arms, silent once more.

When at last she glanced up again, the serpent was regarding her with compassion and speculation. She met his gaze, looking for his thoughts in his great yellow eyes. At last he said, "So you desire knowledge?"

Her voice low and steady with passion, she said, "Yes."

He looked at her, a question in his eyes. Eve found that she was holding her breath, anticipating his next words. But the question faded to doubt, and at last he only said, "Keep on searching. Keep seeking new things, new answers. Now, do you still want to fly?"

Eve, whose face had fallen with her disappointment, smiled a little at his question and nodded. He lowered his long, slender back to the ground where she could climb upon it, and then spread his shining wings and rose into the air. Eve's spirits lifted with the flight, and for a while she forgot her questions. But soon one occurred to her, and she leaned forward, her mouth next to the serpent's pointed ear. "What's death?" she asked.

The serpent was so astonished that he swerved. Eve threw her arms around his neck quickly. When he had steadied himself, he asked, "Who's been telling you about death?"

"Adam said that God said that if we eat from the two trees in the center of the Garden, we'll die. Adam said that death is not being able to move, or see, or talk, or anything."

The serpent changed his course, heading for the center of the Garden. "So he said you'd die?"

"Yes."

"Hmmmm." The serpent said nothing more for a time. At last he said, "Death is more than that. Death is… well, death is nothing. Avoid it. Avoid it at all costs, because there will be nothing, good or bad, if you die."

Eve frowned in confusion, but before she could ask what he meant, they had reached the Garden's center, and the two great trees were before them, rising far above the others, their brightly colored fruit gleaming in the sun. They looked beautiful and delicious, and Eve wondered what they would taste like.

"These are the trees?" the serpent asked, lowering and flying around them in a broad circle.

"Yes," Eve answered.

"Do you want to eat them?"

Eve looked at them. Red and gold shone, calling her. "Oh yes. But I wouldn't. I don't want to die."

"Of course," said the serpent. He flew away from the trees and carried her elsewhere.

When her ride was over, he set her down near where he had found her and then flew away. She watched him, admiring the beauty of his long, sleek form. Then she thought of how he had moved so quietly on the ground. Most of the animals walked silently, but she and Adam clattered through, crushing twigs and leaves beneath their feet, announcing their approach from far away. It suddenly seemed so graceless that Eve spent the rest of the day walking through the forest, staring at the ground, concentrating on not making a sound. She put her feet down carefully and walked slowly, shifting her weight gradually. By the time the moon had reached its zenith, she was able to walk almost as silently as the animals. Peering through the trees, she spotted Adam sitting next to a strawberry patch, filling his mouth with the sweet-sour red fruits. Slowly she advanced upon him, using all she knew of her new skill. She arrived right behind him without a sound, and then she leaped into the air, crying, "Yaaaahh!"

"Yaa!" Adam yelled, jumping to his feet. He turned and was instantly composed. "You startled me," he said, looking at her gravely. She was lying on the ground, clasping her stomach, laughing so hard that breath was painful. He frowned pensively at her, as if nothing were amusing. Then he turned back to his strawberries and began to eat again.

Eve laughed for a while longer, then went to sleep. When she woke, there was once more nothing for her to do. She wandered through the Garden aimlessly until she came upon the hole she had dug. Remembering the serpent's advice, and with no other diversion, she jumped down into it and began to dig some more. So finally she was crouched at the bottom, covered with dirt again and no nearer to her answer than she had been before.

But now her stick was beginning to hit something harder than dirt. Another rock, of course, but this one was much larger. She found that it was several times as wide as she, and almost covered the bottom of the hole. She scraped the dirt away, taking great handfuls of it and throwing them to the surface to join the growing piles of dirt that lay about the hole. Soon parts of the rock became visible. Most of it was dark grey, but parts of it here and there were paler, a yellowish white. Excitement began to take hold of her. Was this the answer she was seeking? But when she had removed the last handful of dirt, she saw that it was not.

The whitish parts of the rock actually seemed to be something separate, something caught inside the rock. Most of the pieces were long and slender, but a few were broader. Each piece was very near another, but no two were actually touching. The shape was something like that of an animal, but it was not an animal. There was nothing to hold the parts together, and no animal was made of this stonelike material.

She climbed out of the hole and called Adam. She shouted his name several he appeared, holding the broken half of a coconut in one hand and munching idly. "What?" he asked, suppressing a yawn.

"What's this?" she demanded, pointing into the hole. He shuffled to the edge and looked down.

"That's a rock," he said.

"No! I mean, what's that white stuff in the rock?"

"It's part of the rock."

"But it can't be! It's made out of something different. How can it be part of the rock?"

"When God made it, he mixed two kinds of rock together and made that," he explained, pointing. She was irked by his attitude; he seemed to be telling her that she was asking stupid questions while he gave her stupid answers. She stalked away from him, frustrated. His explanation that the rock was as it was "because God made it that way" was the same answer he always gave her questions, but she was sure there had to be much more to it than that. His answer didn't satisfy her; it was too simple.

Suddenly she whirled on him. "Don't you ever want to know anything?" she asked. "Don't you ever wonder?"

He looked at her, then said, "You will outgrow this. It is only because you are young."

She raised her eyebrows in surprise. "How do you know?"

"Because I used to ask questions like yours. When God told me that he had made things the way they are, I wasn't satisfied. I wanted to know more, even though there is no more to know. But at last, the questions left me so I could live in peace."

"When?" she asked.

He considered. "About the time you were made from my rib, or my side."

Eve suddenly understood for the first time. She had been made to be a helpmate to Adam, but he needed to help. The only trouble he had ever had was his curiosity, and he had lost that at her creation. She had been made to help him with his only task. She had been made out of his curious side, to hold his questions for him, where they would not invade his mind and trouble him. But why? So that they would not endanger him? Eve knew that God favored Adam over her. He had been made first; the Garden had been made to suit him. And she had been made to ask questions for him, so that Adam would not be threatened by his own curiosity. But why was curiosity dangerous as well as frustrating? She looked to the sky to think, and her eyes fell upon the two trees in the center of the Garden. Then she knew.

God thought that her desire for knowledge was greater than her desire for life. Well, he was wrong. She would never eat that fruit. Even if she only lived because Adam needed protection from curiosity, she wanted to live.

She put her hand on Adam's arm, feeling suddenly much older and wiser than he. "Perhaps you're right," she said gently. Then she turned away, allowing him to wander off. She ran away to look for the serpent.

When she at last saw him, he was soaring high above. She shouted and waved to him. In a moment he was beside her, folding his wings on his back and bowing. "There's something I want to show you. Take me to the hole," she commanded, pulling herself onto his back. He complied, a little amused at her authority. In a moment they were gliding over the treetops to the hole. When they reached it, he alighted gently. She jumped off and pointed into it. "What is that?"

He stretched his long neck toward the hole and peered in. "Ah," he said after a moment. "You've never seen these before? No, of course you haven't."

"Seen what? What is it?"

The serpent hesitated. "What does it look like to you?" he asked after a long silence.

"Like some kind of animal, but it's made out of some kind of stone and the pieces aren't connected. And it's not alive," she added.

"Yes," the serpent answered. He stood silent for some time. She watched him, waiting for his answer. Finally he said, "Well, that's what it is. A… stone figure of an animal. That's all."

"What animal? It doesn't look much like any of the animals in the Garden. Except… well, it looks a little like you. The same shape and size and all." She looked at him.

"Yes." The serpent turned away from the hole. "A stone figure of an animal like me."

"But you haven't answered my question! What is this thing? Tell me!"

"I have told you."

"You haven't! All you said was that it was a stone image of an animal that looks sort of like you!"

"And that's exactly what it is!"

"But there's more! I know there is! And so do you — you just won't tell me!"

"That is all that this is."

Eve fumed helplessly. She knew that the serpent knew more and just didn't want to tell her, for some reason she couldn't imagine. She would have to find out for herself what this thing was, though at the moment she could see no way of doing so. "What kind of animal are you, anyway?" she demanded suddenly. "You can talk. You're smart. You know things that Adam and I don't, and you won't tell me any of it. You don't respect me the way the other animals do because you're smart and you think you're just as good as I am, or even better! What kind of animal are you? Why did God make you?" She stopped, almost sobbing with anger and frustration.

The serpent was quiet. Then he said, "God is not all that he claims to be."

"How do you know?" she whispered. For the first time, she felt fear.

"I am very old."

"What are you?"

"I am a serpent."

"That's not what I meant!"

"What do you want?" he asked. Her answer died on her lips, she was so astonished.

"I want to know," she said.

"Know what?"

"Everything."

"And what are you willing to do, to learn?"

"Anything."

"Anything?"

"Anything."

The serpent paused, thinking. His face had such a look of concentration that Eve thought he would not hear her if she spoke. She was silent, waiting, watching him. At last, he shook his head. "You are a child," he said. "You do not know what you say."

Disappointed and furious, Eve exclaimed, "Of course I do! I know exactly what I'm saying!" She stopped, staring at him. "You know something." He did not answer. "You know how I can find out everything!" He was silent. She seized his neck. "Tell me!" she cried. "Tell me!"

"I cannot. You would never survive."

"I would! Tell me! I would!"

"No," he said. Then he spread his wings, shook his head free, and rose into the air.

"Come back!" she shouted. "Tell me! Come back!" But he flew away as she stood shouting after him, desolate, alone.

 

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