Chapter Nine

Adam and Eve walked all day, going further into the forest, away from the Garden. They stopped whenever they saw fruit and ate until none was left, which was not long. Although these fruits were a little like the fruits of the Garden, they were strange as well — much smaller, and sour.

Small animals ran away when Adam and Eve approached, but the larger animals were hostile and unafraid. They would advance, growling and showing grotesque fangs, and the man and woman would have to find some other path to follow. They began to carry large sticks to fend the animals off with. Walking as quietly as they could and staying close together, they advanced warily into the forest.

***

They stood out in the open, although it was night and animals often attacked in the dark. They were staring up at the sky. The moon had returned, still beautiful, but far paler than before. It gave off far less light than the sun; it barely made their own hands clearer to their sight. It was no longer even round, but shaped like an orange someone had taken a bite out of.

***

Blood trickled down her legs. Frightened, she tried to stanch it, but it kept flowing, for five days. Then it stopped as suddenly as it had begun. She did not understand.

***

They climbed up a steep hill together, clinging to branches and vines and pulling themselves up. Eve seized the smooth black vine that dangled before her. It thrashed and twisted from her grip in one swerving motion. She cried out in shock, leaping backwards and falling into the thick brush. The black snake, longer than Eve, began slipping away into the forest.

Adam broke off the branch he had been holding onto and ran forward, chasing the snake. His stick was raised to strike. Eve, sprawled on a mass of vines, bushes and fallen limbs, could not have gotten up before he was long gone. She stretched one foot forward. Adam stumbled over it. The snake was gone. Adam got up slowly and helped Eve to her feet.

"It's all right, Eve," he said. "I know it was an accident."

"No, it wasn't. I won't let you hurt a snake."

"But why not? The snake has doomed us!"

"The snake has saved us."

"How can you say that?"

"How can you say that here you are doomed?" Eve began, but stopped. She was not so sure, now, that they were not. Covered with scrapes and bruises, and glaring at each other, they trudged on up the hill. Eve looked more carefully before gripping vines.

***

Adam and Eve sat under a tree, retching painfully. Their bodies had been so revolted from some fruit they had eaten that they had returned it. Moaning between spasms, they waited for the poison to pass and knew that, in this hostile new world, not even the fruit was friendly.

***

Adam and Eve looked about in wonder. The leaves were turning brown and falling off the trees. The trees no longer bore fruit. The air was colder. The world was dying. They knew no way to survive in a world where plants could not live.

***

The night was even darker than it had been the last days. The moon was gone again. Adam and Eve huddled together under a tree. Water was pouring from the sky. Their hair and clothing were already soaked, and they could not keep each other warm. They sneezed; their noses were plugged and they had to breathe through their mouths. They felt a new kind of fatigue they had never known before. Eve, who had at first been curious and enchanted at this new phenomena of water from the sky, began to look with terror at the surprises the world held for her.

***

Adam and Eve wrapped their arms around each other, shivering. They were crouched in a small crevice at the bottom of a sheer rock cliff. Water was not falling from the sky any longer. Now tiny things, white and cold and wet, fell silently all around. Neither of them had ever been this cold. Eve wondered if it would ever be warm again. Their hands and feet felt numb. The odd fatigue they had felt at their first rains had returned, and it was worse. They were dizzy and their heads felt light. Groaning miserably, they leaned together, hoping to find relief in the heat of each others' bodies. Eve clenched her chattering teeth and told herself that it was worth it. She would find a way. She owed it to the serpent. She owed it to herself.

***

In the shaky shelter they had built, Eve bent over the fire proudly. Here was a miraculous tool she had found. The things she could use it for…. She smiled in spite of her cold body and empty stomach. And at first she had been so frightened of the fires that started during the rainstorms. She thought of the serpent and wished she could thank him. How she loved him. He had given her such a great gift. He deserved any reward she could give him, but she could give him none.

Eve moved the rabbit she and Adam had managed to catch. They had both been repelled by the idea of eating animals, but hunger had left them no choice. Its taste was hardly appealing, but her body liked the food. They had grown thinner when they left the Garden, but had stopped losing weight when she had thought of eating flesh. And when they had eaten all they could of that first animal, leaving those strange parts which were too hard to eat, Eve had discovered the secret of those white stones in the Garden which had looked like an animal. They were the last remains of some animal long dead. They were bones.

But God had said that he had created all life for them to have dominion over. How could they have dominion over an animal that had been dead long before they had arrived? And why had this animal been allowed to die without leaving children like itself? The skeleton had been like the serpent, but different in some ways. It had not been a serpent. What was that creature, and why was it dead? Eve could find no answers. "God is not all he claims," the serpent whispered in her head. She frowned, wondering… but this was too large a question to think of when she was so hungry. When she no longer had to fight her hunger every moment, she would ponder.

She skinned the rabbit with a sharp stone, trying not to think of how the rabbits had played with her in the Garden, and then looked at the meat with resignation. She would have to eat it. It was so cold! She put it in the fire to warm it. A pleasing odor soon arose. Eve smiled and thanked the serpent once again.

***

Adam trudged through the snow, clutching the new tool Eve had made that morning. It was a strong stick with a sharp, pointed stone attached at one end. In spite of his protests about the cold, she had insisted that he go out to kill a deer with this new tool. He hated killing animals, even though these timid or ferocious animals were not like the ones he had played with in those blessed days in the Garden — the beautiful Garden! But he was always hungry, even after a meal of rabbit heated in the fire, and rabbits took a long time to catch and gave so little meat. If he could catch a deer, he would not have to go hunting again for a few days. And Eve had promised him the skin from the deer to keep him warm, and had given him all their new rabbit-skins while he hunted.

Her instructions had been so precise. He had to worry about all kinds of stupid things for no reason at all, like which way the wind was blowing and if it hit him or the deer first. She had rattled off what he had to do quickly and concisely while she wrapped him in rabbit fur. When she had paused for a moment, he had asked, "But why me? Why do I have to do this?"

"Because you're bigger and stronger than I am and I have to take care of the fire," she had snapped. "Don't you want to eat? And don't you want that deerskin? Then go." And she had pushed him into the cold.

He knew that he was going to die. God had said they would, if they ate the fruit. O unhappy day, when they had eaten that fruit! He still prayed and pleaded to be allowed back in, but God never answered him, and Eve would say that they had been unhappy in the Garden. But they had not. He remembered. They had never had to work or worry or try to figure anything out; all they had had to do was play. Now they were always hungry and cold and had to work all the time. He would die, but he did what Eve said because it made things a little better while he was waiting to die. He had no hope of living unless God let him back into the Garden. He could not live in a place like this.

Moving softly through the snow, he headed toward the deer.

***

They walked happily eastward, enjoying the warmth they had missed for so many moons, delighting in hearing birds singing and seeing brightly colored flowers once more. For the first time in moons, they found fruit. They were not cold or sick anymore. They went east, farther from the Garden, deeper into the forest.

They reached a creek and paused to drink. The world was friendlier now, but they did not know when they would find water again. As Adam bent over the stream, he spied a small brown snake nearby, not moving at all. He started and seized a rock. Eve wrenched it angrily from his hands, tears blurring her vision as she thought of her dear serpent who she would never speak to again. Adam stood and raised his foot to crush the snake's tiny brown head. She threw herself against him, putting all of her weight into the impact, and he toppled. They both fell in the creek, getting mud and water all over themselves and scraping their limbs on rocks. They rose in time to see the snake slip away lithely over the rocks. Enraged, Adam slapped Eve across the face. She screamed at him, "Do that again and you won't have anyone to skin your animals, to make your clothes, to tend your fire, to cook your meat!"

They stared at each other, then walked on in silence. They knew that neither of them could survive in this world without the other. This was a world that required two pairs of hands, two pairs of legs, two pairs of eyes. It could not be faced alone.

***

It had been dark for a long time. The moon had returned. Eve had to get up at dawn, with Adam, so she could cook some food for him before he went hunting. Then she would eat and begin to look for fruits that would not poison them. She had sent Adam to do this a few times, but he often brought back poison or rotten fruit, and did not know how to find many of the vines and bushes which bore the fruit. She would be sleepy in the morning, but she could not sleep now. She had stayed awake many nights, fiddling with rocks and bones and sticks. In this way, she had invented all the tools that had made things a little easier for her and Adam.

Her eyes squeezed themselves shut. She sat still for a moment, then forced them open. Her head was swaying slightly. She looked longingly at Adam, peacefully asleep in his warm bed. She could finish this in the morning. But no; in the morning she would cook and eat and then go out and gather fruit all day. When she had found all she could that day, she would try to finish preparing the skins and then start making clothes out of them; the skins they wore would become ragged and filthy quickly, and would soon have to be discarded. When Adam returned with whatever he had killed, she would have to skin it, cook it, and then repair his clothes and tools as he ate. She would have no time tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. All she could do was stay up late, forgo sleep, and try to make some new tool that would ease their struggle.

She bent her head over the fragments in her hands. "There must be a way to live in this world," she whispered. She thought of what the serpent had given up so she could be here. He must have loved her very much. Would he have brought such misery upon himself if he had thought she was to spend her life struggling to stay alive, never progressing, never achieving any of that elusive joy she felt sure must be in this world somewhere? She thought that his pain would be for nothing if she did not succeed, first to survive, and then — what? To achieve happiness. And how would she do that? She pondered, turning over the pieces in her hands. She would discover all the secrets hidden in this strange world. "God is not all he claims," the serpent had said. She would learn what he had meant. She would learn how all of this worked. She would learn why things fell down and how she could fly. In this world, anything was possible.

 

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