Fruit and Consequences
Eden was not entirely unlike the images made popular by Bible stories – it was kept lush and green by a mist which wafted gently up from the ground with the evening and morning temperature change. There were many animals and birds, living harmoniously in close proximity with an innate and uncanny, at least to our way of thinking, ability to understand and accommodate each other. There were no carnivores, or rather those animals we've come to know as carnivores were not as yet carnivorous: the lion lay down with the lamb and both ate herbs.
Adam and Eve, however, were quite unlike the images painted by pious medieval artists, those pale European nudes who look quite out of place among the stylized shrubs and ornate apple tree, enwrapped by a python looming large and ominous. No, Adam and Eve, for those were in fact their names, were lithe and furry, not hairy like the popular caveman image, but bearing a rich pelt rather like that of an otter or a mink. Adam was a deep brown going to a russet and finally almost blond at the tip of each strand. Eve, however, was uniformly golden, more like twenty-four karat gold than any animal's coat is colored today, except for an area at the base of her throat which was creamy and luxuriant and slightly curly.
During the day, they worked in the garden; Adam had quite an inspired talent for what we now call landscape architecture, and he would move various plants and trees into new locations and groupings, thereby achieving an excellent dramatic effect. Eve helped Adam with the bigger tasks but spent most of her time ordering a "kitchen garden," discovering all the various forms of berries and planting them in color-gradated patterns that delighted the eye. She had gone from strawberries to raspberries to blackberries and then to peach and apricot trees, and it was while she considered the placement of these entirely wholesome plants that she first met the serpent.
It would be more accurate, of course, to call him a dragon. He was stunning; his scales were large and almost metallic in appearance, with a tremendous iridescent sheen. He had wings, translucent and filmy and almost certainly not functional, but striking nonetheless. The length of him was probably thirty feet and his tail fully half of that. Eve was stepping backward to get a better perspective on her day's accomplishments when she stumbled across that tail and plopped onto her nicely-padded furry gold derriere.
"Oh, excuse me!" she gasped, startled but always polite.
"Think nothing of it, nothing— I dare say it was my fault, hmmm?" the serpent quickly answered. She was fascinated by his eyes. They were so bright and shining—almost like mirrors.
"I say, I don't believe we've met before, have we?" Eve inquired.
"No, we've not been formally introduced. I am the serpent, and I usually dwell among the larger trees in the garden but I've been hearing such good reports of the work you've been doing that I wanted to come and have a peek, hmmm? Really quite fine," the serpent all but gushed.
Eve enjoyed the compliment and a pleasant flush warmed her face, hardly visible to the naked eye, but I expect the serpent knew. "It's not much, really," she demurred, "Adam's doing the truly exceptional work—"
"Nonsense! Bigger isn't better, you know, hmmm?"
"No, I suppose not," she agreed. She was proud of her work and had a healthy sense of accomplishment in a job well-done, but she was very impressed with Adam and his work – not really because it was bigger than hers but because it was his and not hers; it was inherently Adam's work, the work he was meant to do, and so very different from anything she would've come up with. But that was hard to put into words and somehow, when the serpent referred to Adam's work as 'bigger,' for a moment his work seemed diminished, as if it were merely her work on a larger, cruder scale.
She couldn't think quite how to express it but she felt somehow as if she'd allowed the wrong impression to stand. "His work is very different from mine, it's not just that it's bigger—"
"Of course not, of course not," the serpent agreed quickly then fell into silence. The two of them stood looking at her rows of strawberries.
"It does seem to me," the serpent said, "that these are very good strawberries. Very good."
"Well, of course they are – what else could they be? They are...strawberries; they are good," Eve responded. She was vaguely troubled by the remark but on the face of it there was nothing wrong.
"I am simply acknowledging your excellent taste. Your choices are exquisite, hmmm?"
Once again, Eve found herself warmed by his compliments.
"I mustn't keep you," the serpent continued. "The evening approaches and you must be getting back to your man, hmmm? Perhaps we'll meet another time." And with that he turned and walked toward the wild forest at the edge of the garden, his tail neatly uncoiling from around Eve's ankles.
Eve selected a ripe strawberry and popped it into her mouth. It was, in fact, very good.
When she came upon the area where Adam had been working, she was awestruck. He had done such fine work, he had such an artistic sensibility that she stood stock still and drank it in. "Oh Adam," she breathed, "what a wonderful view."
He came bounding up, all grins and teeth, caught her up in his sweaty arms and nuzzled his face into her neck. "It's been a good day, my golden girl, a good day," he proclaimed, his arm casually around her shoulder as he turned back to surveying the landscape. "I moved that rather large and unruly ficus over by the date palms," his arm dropping away as he gestured in a westerly direction, "and I discovered that...".
Eve could barely hear him as he loped away, and for the first time she wondered why it was that she always came to him at the end of day and why he never came to see her work. She stood still as she considered the foreign thought, head half tilted in puzzlement.
"Eve!" Adam called, having at last noticed he was speaking to thin air.
Startled, Eve smiled and ran to catch up with her husband, "Here, my love."
So they walked in the cool of the evening and the Lord walked with them and it was good.
The next day the serpent came to Eve again. She noticed him watching her from under some fronds. "Hello, serpent!" she called out as she straightened up. His wings dazzled her as he moved into the sunlight.
"Good day to you, Eve," he answered solemnly and eyed her basket of vegetables.
"Would you like some?" she offered.
"Oh no no no – I only eat khresza," he replied.
"Kray-kreh-kressa? What is that?" she asked, the strange word sticking in her throat.
"Khrrrrrresza," the serpent said again, trilling and raspy, "It's a fruit, hmmmm?"
"Where does it grow?" Eve wondered, intrigued by the thought of an unknown fruit.
"In the middle of the garden, hmmm?"
"Oh!" Eve made a little gasp, "Did you say the middle of the garden?"
The serpent's eyes were shining but he looked sideways. "Yes, quite near the middle of the garden, hmmm?"
The very words made her uneasy. She knew there was something forbidden in the middle of the garden and thus far she'd avoided the area altogether. She looked at the serpent; he was so lovely, shining and colorful, radiant in the sunlight – he was exciting to look at, even standing still. Surely it was all right; he wouldn't do anything forbidden...
So they walked along in silence, looking at her strawberries. "These are very good strawberries," the serpent said, echoing the words of the previous day, "very good. But—" He caught himself and didn't finish the thought.
"But what?" Eve asked.
The serpent looked a little sad. "Nothing, nothing—"
"I can tell it is something," Eve insisted, "tell me, please – what is it?"
"Well, hmmm, it's just— it's just—" the serpent trailed off.
Eve felt a pang of alarm in her chest. "Don't go on that way! It is something. You must tell me!"
"I don't want to upset you, hmmm?"
"I don't understand," Eve cried out. "I don't think you could say anything that would upset me but your not saying it is upsetting me— Please!"
The serpent sighed – a long, soft hiss of breath. "Look," he said, indicating a particular strawberry plant with a graceful foot, "these are very good strawberries—"
Eve began to feel exasperated but the serpent continued, "—and so are these," he said, indicating the next plant. "But here—" he raised sad and shining eyes to her, "these are not good."
"Not good? Whatever do you mean?"
"Do you see these little ones?" Eve crouched down beside the serpent so as to see under the leaves, "these little ones are all pale and sickly," he told her.
"No, they're just young. They're new – they haven't grown yet."
Once again the serpent raised his sad and shining eyes to hers and this time there was a tear – a tear! – welling up in the corner of one eye. "No," he said softly, "these will never grow. These are not good. These are bad."
Eve's heart stopped for a moment. Here was a whole new concept: something could be not good, other than good; something could be bad. "Really?" she asked.
The tear fell from the serpent's eye to the ground where it lay like a diamond for a moment before being absorbed by the dark soil. "Yes," he confirmed, "bad."
Eve rocked back on her haunches. Bad. The very thought was beyond her; everything that surrounded her was good – how could it be anything else? She sat staggered and silent.
The serpent withdrew slowly, "I see I have upset you, hmmm?" he whispered and his breath was cold on her neck.
But, being a sensible human being, Eve soon shook off the troubling thoughts and got back to her work, picking ripe berries and transplanting. Every now and then she stopped to look at the plant with the bad berries on it. They certainly were small and pale—
And some distance behind her under the trees the serpent smiled, a smile without any warmth in it, a smile devoid of all compassion, an expression that should not even be called a smile – and then he disappeared into the shadows.
It was very subtle, of course, the planting of doubt, as the serpent was by far the most subtle creature in the garden – well, in the whole solar system, if you want to be entirely accurate. Eve did not talk about this new concept with Adam but she pondered it in her heart. Onetime as they walked in the cool of the evening with the Lord she found Him looking at her as if He could see through all the clear water of her soul down to her toes and she nearly asked Him about "bad" but Adam's attention was suddenly caught by a pair of loping kangaroos and he began laughing so hard at their amusing form of locomotion that very soon Eve and the Lord were laughing, too. And after laughing with pure joy at the delightful variety of creation, of color and sound and movement, laughing until her sides hurt, somehow the thought of "bad" was quite gone from out of her head.
But in the following days she found herself obsessing over that particular strawberry plant. She would work for ten or fifteen minutes and then feel drawn to examine the plant again. She found other new, young strawberries and compared their growth to the bad plant and it did seem to her that other plants were growing more quickly while this one continued to be small and pale. She had never experienced a conflict of this kind before and it was strange and compelling. She began to feel a kind of possessiveness about it: this was hers, her own moral dilemma, and it became part of her self-identity as distinct from Adam. As she grew more fixed in this attitude, she found it easier not to look too deeply into the face of the Lord.
There came a day when she was certain the serpent was right: those strawberries were never going to grow large and ripe and red; they were bad. Suddenly, knowing they were bad, she knew she needed to do something about them, but she didn't know what. As she knelt there, staring at the bad berries and wrestling with her internal agitation, the serpent showed up again. His shining eyes were above her head and she looked up at him, dazzled. He would know what to do. After all, it was the serpent who pointed out their badness in the first place.
"What do I do with these?" she demanded without even saying hello.
The serpent lowered his head and examined the berries. They were still small and white and, what Eve did not know, poisoned by the dragon's tear. He sighed in mock concern.
"It's hard to know," he said. "There are bad things that are so bad they must be destroyed. But there are also bad things that are just, well, different."
This was not the kind of answer Eve expected – to destroy or not to destroy? What would it mean to destroy the plant? What was she to do with it if it wasn't so bad as to require destruction? Were there degrees of badness? Instead of an answer she had a whole flurry of new questions and she felt even more troubled.
"That doesn't help!" she cried, "I don't know anything about bad— I just don't know what to do!"
The serpent sagely nodded his head. "It is a hard thing," he assented, "to know good from bad. In this I have more experience than you." He looked her straight in the eyes, "I am older than both you and Adam – and I live on khresza."
Eve felt a little dizzy from staring in the serpent's eyes and impressed with his boast of greater age and experience (if she only knew how much older and what kind of experience!— but I digress).
"You tell me what to do," she said with sudden certainty.
"It's a dangerous thing to let another tell you what to do," the dragon chastised her.
"No, I do it all the time. Adam tells me what to do. The Lord tells us what to do. Sometimes," she added a little breathlessly, "I even tell Adam what to do!"
The serpent breathed his long hissing sigh, "Well, you are young—" he said, almost to himself, and Eve waited with the relief that comes of knowing a difficult decision is now out of your hands. Did the dragon feel any remorse, any wavering of resolve, at her naiveté and absolute trust? But this is not his story—
"These," he said, cocking his head as he considered the pale white berries, "are not so bad as to be destroyed. In fact," his voice dropped nearly to a whisper, "these could be eaten even in this condition, hmmmm?"
"Really?" Eve's eyes popped wide open – how very complicated it was! These were bad strawberries but not so bad that they couldn't be eaten.
"Hmmm," the dragon assented and he speared a small white berry with a long claw and placed it carefully in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully.
"Well?" Eve demanded.
"It's not bad," the serpent began.
"But you said it was bad! Now you say it's not bad?!"
"Oh, it's a bad strawberry," the serpent assured her, "but it's not entirely bad – it's not bad for food, as long as you're not expecting it to be a strawberry... Here, you try one," and he lifted the leaves to expose the pale little berries.
Eve looked up at him and back down at the berries – he didn't seem any the worse for eating a berry which was not entirely bad. She pulled one off the stem and examined it closely. It smelled sweet and seemed just a little sticky in her fingers; she looked up at the serpent one more time and he nodded his head in encouragement. She popped the poisoned berry into her mouth.
The dragon was right; it didn't taste like a strawberry – in fact, it was sweeter than a strawberry and of a very different flavor, more floral and less fruit. She felt a little tingle of excitation – so that was what a bad strawberry tasted like! She reached for another and popped it into her mouth as the serpent cried out, "No, wait—"
Eve spat the offensive berry out – this was awful! Bitter and mushy and vile. The dragon nearly laughed at the expression of outrage on her face but he smothered the impulse.
"Not that one!" he said.
"But you said they weren't entirely bad," Eve objected after spitting several times.
"The one I chose and the first one you ate, that was the case."
"Do you mean that an entirely bad berry can grow next to a not-entirely-bad berry?" Eve demanded.
The dragon allowed his eyes to become very large and moist, "Yes," he said, "it's very complex. It requires great wisdom and experience—"
"How am I to know that? I am very young; I hardly have any experience. It seems to me that I will have to eat many nasty things before I am wise!"
The hint of a smile creased the serpent's face, "That is quite possible. You would need to be more like the Lord —or more like me— to avoid it."
At the mention of the Lord, Eve's troubled spirit calmed. "Yes," she breathed, "I'd love to be more like the Lord. He is so wonderful and so very wise." She looked up and caught a strange, stern expression on the serpent's face.
"I must be going," he said, very stiff and formal, and he all but disappeared, leaving Eve confused by his reaction, confused by the bad berries and the not-so-bad berries, and not sure what to do next.
"I don't know the difference between bad and entirely bad," Eve acknowledged to herself. And so, despite the exotic and delicious taste of the first white berry, she rooted up the plant and tore it into pieces and threw it into her compost pit.
Behind her, hidden in the undergrowth, the dragon's eyes flared with a cold blue rage. She would pay for rejecting his deliciously unpredictable berries; she would pay.
For the remainder of that day, Eve was absorbed with thoughts of the beauty of the Lord, His splendor and holiness and wisdom, and these thoughts pushed aside the memory of her challenging day. She felt such a settled peace and blissful communion with the Lord and with Adam as they walked that evening that the question of "bad" and "not-entirely-bad" never even entered her head.
And, chances are, left to her own devices, it would have been a good long time before she and Adam got around to falling on their own. But the serpent did not leave her to her own devices. The next morning before sunrise he walked stealthily through her part of the garden, skewering a peach here and an apple there, letting a tear fall into the ground and poisoning not just a strawberry plant this time but an entire row of blackberries. Harboring cold malice in his heart, he withdrew to wait, unseen and unsuspected.
He was disappointed that day because Eve's healthy preoccupation with the Lord enabled her to do her work without fretting; she never even checked the compost pit to see what odd vines and leaves had sprung up from the poisoned strawberry. So after she returned to Adam in the evening, the serpent came out and punctured more fruit and shed more tears, just to speed the process up a little.
The following morning Eve was singing and placing perfectly good peaches in a basket of woven leaves when she gave a little yelp of alarm. Her hand was about to close on a peach that looked beautiful on one side and strangely withered and puckered on the other.
"What is this?!" she cried out in alarm. She hadn't thought of bad since ridding herself of the poisoned strawberry plant. She looked through the peaches already placed in her basket; they were all good. She walked around the base of the tree, looking upward and found three more questionable peaches before stumbling over the apparently-sleeping dragon.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, startled, and for a moment he feared he had overplayed his hand and that she would make an association between badness and his presence. But instead she said, "It's a blessing in any case because, look at this, I've got some bad peaches. Or maybe they're not entirely bad, I don't know which – would you please tell me?"
The serpent expressed suitable dismay and examined the peaches. "No," he said, "I think these are all bad. I don't think you ought to eat any part of these, hmmm?"
"I know what to do with them," Eve said as she plucked them off the tree and carried them over to her compost pit.
The dragon feigned alarm, "I don't think you should do that—" he called out just as Eve reached the area she set aside for that most organic form of recycling.
"Augh!" she yelled and dropped the bad peaches. The poisoned strawberry plant had sent out suckers from its every shredded part and had formed a curious net-like covering over the surface of the compost pit.
"You didn't put the strawberry plant in there, did you?" the dragon asked with mock concern, "you know, the one that wasn't entirely bad?"
"Yes, I did, and just look at it now!" Eve exclaimed.
"Oh, I'm afraid that wasn't a very wise decision, no, it wasn't a good decision at all—"
"What's going to happen?" Eve asked.
The serpent stuck his pointy head over the barrier and peered at the strange growth, first with one eye and then with the other. "I'm not sure even I can tell you that," he said. "Let me go eat some khresza and think about it, all right? I'm sure it will become clear after I've had a little something to inspire me. Just don't put anything more in that pile!" And without waiting for her response, the dragon trotted briskly toward the center of the garden, shuddering with evil laughter as he imagined, quite accurately, her forlorn and puzzled expression.
Eve spent several hours alternating between anxious pacing and brooding in the shade of a tree. Finally, as the sun approached its zenith, she decided her need to share with Adam was greater than her fear the serpent would return and find her gone. Having decided, she sprinted in the direction of Adam's work.
"Come with me," she pleaded, catching his arm in her hands.
"Well, hello! What's up? What's all this agitation?" he asked, good natured but puzzled.
"I have such a problem and I don't know what to do and the serpent hasn't come back yet and we have to hurry because if he comes back and I'm not there I don't know what will happen—"
"Okay, I'm coming, just explain in small pieces, all right?"
Eve took a big breath and started: "There was a bad strawberry plant—"
"Whoa, too fast, 'bad' – what do you mean, 'bad'?" Adam interrupted her.
"Bad," she answered, "like – not good."
"Not good? How could that be? Strawberries are good; they can't also be not good—"
"Oh, it's really complicated," Eve panted as they hurried along, "it was just one plant and the berries just looked little and white, like baby strawberries, but they didn't grow and they didn't grow and I didn't know what to do with something bad and so the serpent told me that maybe they weren't entirely bad and he ate one and I ate one and it was – well, it was kind of good, it just wasn't like a strawberry, and then I ate another and it was awful! So then I pulled up the plant and put it in that pile of trimmings and things and I thought everything was fine but this morning there were some bad peaches and I went to put them in the pile, too, and the serpent said, 'don't do that!' but I already had and it was all weird, just weird, and it's growing fast and it doesn't look at all like a strawberry anymore and even the serpent didn't know what to do so he's going to go eat something that will inspire him and then come back."
Adam was trotting along beside his golden wife, his jaw slack as he listened to her remarkable tale. "I think I'm still having trouble with 'bad'..."
Eve's brow furrowed and she shrugged as she ran, "I can't explain it, I don't understand how you know when something is entirely bad or just a little bad – and I've been so worried and I, and I keep wanting to talk to you about it but somehow I never do and now I'm really confused—"
Adam put his arm around Eve and pulled her close and made comforting little sounds. She began to relax into his arms but suddenly remembered about the serpent and pulled away. "We have to hurry!" she cried.
Adam watched for a moment as she resumed running and then started after, "Hurry, yeah, hurry – uh, why are we hurrying?"
Eve turned and called backwards, "The serpent! The serpent, I told you—"
Adam caught up with her, "Right, the serpent – what's he got to do with all this? I haven't seen him since the day I named him. He didn't seem all that friendly."
"Oooh! He's really friendly," Eve objected and then remembered the serpent's earlier comments about Adam, "—at least to me," she finished, her mind now pre-occupied with yet another strange consideration. Was it possible the serpent liked her and not Adam?
They emerged into the clearing where Eve's garden stood. "Nice work, Eve!" Adam said with genuine enthusiasm and his affirmation, which would have been received with such pure joy, was barely heard or acknowledged as Eve looked desperately around for the serpent.
"He's not here," she said, chewing her lower lip.
"Okay, I see that," Adam said, patting her shoulder, "now explain to me what he has to do with all of this."
"The serpent knows good from bad," Eve said and an alarm bell began to go off in the back of Adam's mind, something about a prohibition the Lord gave him, weeks ago when he was new.
"Eve, we're not supposed to—" he began.
"I know, we're not supposed to touch or eat from the tree in the middle of the garden," Eve rattled off the instruction he gave her, "and I haven't even been to the middle of the garden, so that's not it, I'm good—" she paused unexpectedly, "—I'm just not wise."
"You're young, Eve. We both are. We'll grow wise; the Lord has told us that," Adam assured her.
"But I need wisdom now," Eve said. "Look at this," she added, indicating the compost pit.
Adam had never seen anything like it, either. He started to poke a finger at it.
"Don't touch it!" Eve stopped him.
"Why not?" he asked and she realized she didn't know the answer. He watched her for a moment and then proceeded to examine the strange growth. "It's weird," he said as he rubbed his fingers together, testing the faint stickiness that came from the poisoned plant. He held his fingers up to his nostrils and inhaled. Microscopic spores pulled off his fingertips and shot through his nose, his sinuses, into his lungs, his bloodstream. There had been no gradual introduction to the serpent, as with Eve, no walking, talking, breathing the same air together, so even this tiny amount of dragon-poison, distilled through the strawberry plant, had a noticeable impact on Adam. "That's sweet," he said, experiencing a little rush.
"The first berry I ate was, too – really sweet; not like a strawberry," Eve agreed.
Adam had been feeling a little trepidation about the serpent and its attentions to his wife but that intuition was now compromised and his thinking just slightly fuzzied. "Where's the serpent now?" he asked.
"Probably eating kress-kresh-kre, oh, I can't say it!" Eve exclaimed.
Adam inhaled again and this time it seemed to give him back his balance. "Well, let's go find him," he said. So the two of them set off toward the middle of the garden.
The dragon had been watching from the undergrowth and he was very pleased. Adam was not quite as open and accessible as his wife and the serpent wasn't sure how much damage he could do if he only got to Eve, but this was promising. He rushed ahead of them and pulled a ripe, juicy khresza off the tree; it all but fell into his grasp. He could hear the humans crashing through the brush and he took a big bite, releasing its intoxicating fragrance.
Adam and Eve tumbled to a halt at the sight of him at the base of the tree, their nostrils filled with a strange and attractive fragrance. Adam had forgotten just how impressive the serpent was – all iridescent scales and gossamer wings and shining, silver eyes. "Oh," he exhaled by way of greeting.
"The man himself," the serpent answered and rose to his feet, setting the fruit aside. "I am honored," all wheedling affectation gone from his manner.
"My wife has been telling me about the bad strawberry plant, or the not-entirely-bad plant, or—" Adam paused in a rare moment of confusion, the hyperventilation of their run and the strawberry spores were having an effect on him. He stopped speaking and gathered himself together and put it bluntly, "What do we do about it now?"
"Ah, the eternal question," the serpent said, half to himself, and then faced the couple full on. "I've been eating khresza and I realize – it's not my problem."
"What?!" Eve was stunned. "But you, you're the one who told me it was a bad plant, you told me you could be inspired and figure out what to do—"
"I have been inspired," the serpent agreed, "and it's not my problem. I don't eat strawberries or peaches or any fruit but khresza, which makes me wise, and my wisdom tells me – this is not my problem."
"But what are we supposed to do?" Eve asked in the closest thing to a whine that pristine world had ever heard.
"Do whatever you like, whatever you think best," the dragon replied, very crisp and cool.
Eve deflated. She didn't realize how much she counted upon the serpent to direct her steps in this matter. If he wasn't going to help, who would?
The greatest indictment is that, at that moment, neither Adam nor Eve thought about seeking the will of God. The serpent's poison had already done its work.
Eve looked at Adam and he at her. The ripe, heady smell of the open khresza filled their senses and the moment seemed to draw out a very long time.
With preternatural purpose the dragon spoke: "Did God really say you may not eat of any fruit of the garden?"
Eve's eyes broke away from Adam's; "No, we can eat of all the fruit—" and she looked down at the partially eaten khresza and suddenly she knew what it was, "All the fruit except that of the tree in the middle of the garden. That one we may not eat of, not even touch, or we will die."
Adam was watching his wife's profile as she spoke to the serpent; the alarm bells were ringing again, this time louder and more insistent, and he felt a sudden pang of guilt at having exaggerated the Lord's instruction when he shared it with Eve.
He began to interrupt to set the record right and then recognized it didn't make any difference – they were going down a path and he didn't know how to turn it around.
The serpent's eyes were shining as he told her, "You will not surely die. For God knows that on the day that you eat of it, you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil."
And Eve, seeing that the fruit was good for food and desirable to make her wise, reached out and plucked a khresza from the tree. She considered it a moment and in the back of her head all the sown lies sprang into hideous life: It's a dangerous thing to let another tell you what to do; it's very complex; it requires great wisdom and experience; it seems to me that I will have to eat many nasty things before I am wise; you would need to be more like the Lord —or more like me— to avoid it;
"Yes," she said with certainly, "I need to be more like the Lord," and she bit into the succulent flesh of the khresza.
Fragrance and juice burst out of the taut skin and ran down her chin, staining it a deep crimson. For Adam, it all seemed to happen in slow motion; he felt powerless to stop it or change it; simultaneously horrified and hypnotized, like you or I might, watching a train wreck His eyes were very large and solemn; he didn't know what it meant, "to die," but he watched Eve carefully. Her eyes widened and she chewed and gulped and swallowed down the deadly fruit.
"Well—?" Adam asked.
Eve nodded her head and took another big bite, chewing quickly, eating voraciously, licking the juice off her fingers and sucking it out of her fur.
"So?" Adam demanded.
Eve whirled back to the tree and pulled off another khresza and handed it to Adam, "See for yourself," she said. She reached up for a third khresza.
Adam considered the fruit. Eve seemed none the worse for wear; in fact, her eyes were bright and shining with a new light and while she seemed abrupt in her response to him, she obviously found it a delicious food because she was midway through her second one when Adam bit into the fruit.
He was not deceived; he knew he was doing what the Lord expressly told him not to do – but it appeared there were no consequences. The flavor burst inside his mouth and in his brain and he thought, "The Lord will never know."
He found, as did Eve, that the more khresza you ate, the more you wanted so the two of them ate all the fruit within arm's reach and still longed for the fruit beyond their grasp. Adam jumped up and caught a branch, dragging it down and pulling off several more khresza; Eve reached out to take one and he cradled them possessively into his chest and turned away from her. She was outraged and livid; how dare he keep them to himself; she was the first one to eat it; she handed him one of her fruits—
"Augh!" she cried out and hit him on the back. He spun around and pushed her with his free hand; she went sliding backwards and landed with a thump.
She glared up at him, furious, and he found her expression combined with the red stain down her chin and neck made her look ridiculous. He began to laugh and she leapt up, howling. Suddenly he stopped because there was something awful, terrible, feral and deadly in her countenance. She came at him, arms swinging wildly and he dropped the fruit to protect himself but she lunged down and scrabbled for the khresza on the ground and scurried away to the base of another tree where she ate it ravenously, hardly chewing at all.
The madness went out of him at that moment, seeing his beloved Eve forcing down the khresza, juice running down the sides of her face and staining the creamy fur at the base of her throat. He began to step toward her, he wanted to say he was sorry, but she growled at him as she finished the fruit. He leaned against the trunk of the tree and slid down, feeling exhausted and nauseated. He turned away and retched and the khresza smelled foul coming up out of his gorge. He closed his eyes and he could hear Eve sobbing and retching, too.
Finally he felt strong enough to stand up and he went over to Eve and held out his hand. She looked up and gasped. Adam was patchy, his lovely thick brown fur was falling out by the handfuls. He looked down, startled, and back toward the tree. There was such a pile of fur left under the tree that it almost looked like an animal at rest. Eve looked down at her arms and saw the rich gold fur was shedding rapidly off of her, too.
"Oh no," she whimpered, sounding like herself for the first time since eating the khresza, "oh no—" She looked frantically around for the dragon but he was long gone, having accomplished his evil worst. She still didn't realize he was her enemy and she hoped he might know how to make the fur stop falling out. She felt terrible: her stomach hurt; her mouth was sour; she itched all over; and something more – she felt guilty. She didn't have a vocabulary for it, yet, but she knew she'd done something very wrong and she felt bad about it.
"Oh Adam," she cried. They both began walking back toward their part of the garden, rubbing their itching bodies and leaving a trail of russet and gold fur behind them for a very long time.
"Adam, we can't let the Lord see us like this," she said, ashamed. She looked like the bad strawberries, small and white. She was shivering with unaccustomed cold. Adam put his arm around her shoulder – how odd she felt! Instead of luxuriant warm mink, here was cool human flesh, naked human flesh.
"We have to put something on," he said, and he began looking for plants with large leaves and gathering up leaves and vines. Eve watched his clever hands and saw what he was doing and joined him in making a poor sort of cape. He draped it over her and began working on one for himself. She felt warmer and they were certainly preoccupied by their task so the Lord had come quite close before they heard His footsteps.
"Children, where are you?" He called out, trying to keep the grief out of His voice.
Their eyes met in panic. What would He think? Surely He would notice. Torn between love's longing and guilt's fear, Adam spoke up.
"We're hiding," he said.
Eve rolled her eyes. Well, of course they were hiding! That was obvious.
"Why are you hiding?" the Lord asked, giving them every opportunity to be forthcoming.
"Because we're naked!" Eve cried out.
Adam turned angry eyes on her, "Shush!" he said, "why did you tell Him that?!"
"Adam, He's gonna notice—" she whispered back.
"Who told you you were naked?" the Lord asked. There was a very long pause. He parted the leaves to see the two miserable humans, cold and naked, tear-stained faces, wearing their ridiculous aprons. "Did you eat of the tree of which I told you not to eat?"
Adam glared at Eve and turned back to face the Lord.
"The woman You gave me ate and she gave to me also – and I ate," he answered, half belligerent and half bravado.
The Lord turned His beautiful, gentle eyes on Eve. "What is this you have done?" He asked.
Suddenly everything became very clear – the dragon's lies and her gullibility. "The serpent beguiled me – and I ate."
There was a crackling, sizzling noise and the dragon appeared, writhing against an unseen barrier, fighting to escape but unable to do so. He stopped struggling and glared at the Lord.
"You, I curse because of this evil deed; you are cursed above every tame and every wild animal. You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust for the rest of your life."
As the Lord spoke these fearsome words the dragon began twisting in a tormented fashion, his legs quickly grew shorter and shorter and finally disappeared altogether; his scales got smaller and lost almost all their iridescence; his head grew smaller and his eyes turned black and he lost the power of speech so he would not be able to beguile another – at least, not in that form.
"I put enmity between you and the woman, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman; He will crush your head and you will bruise His heel."
The serpent, no longer a dragon and now truly a snake, hissed and was released to slither away through the undergrowth.
The Lord turned back to His human pair.
"Woman," He said, "your pain in childbirth will increase greatly. You will desire your husband and strive with him to possess and control him – but he will rule over you." He turned His face to Adam and spoke softly but with great intensity, "Because of you the ground is cursed and it will bring forth thorns and thistles and your toil will be painful. By your sweat you will eat your food all the days of your life until you return to the ground; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
Adam and Eve were ashen and silent as the Lord brought a lamb and killed it to make clothing of skin for the humans. "For without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins," He said as he did the grim work. Adam saw the gaping wound and the bright red blood spill out into the earth and he closed his eyes against the memory of Eve with crimson staining her chin and neck after eating the khresza. "Cursed is the ground because of you," he heard the words of the Lord echo through his thoughts.
The Lord put the garments upon them and He kissed each of them on the forehead. "Now you must go," He told them, "you must leave the garden and never return here. For your spirit died this day and you must walk the earth as body and soul, always thirsting for the easy joy and fellowship we shared when your spirit was knit with Mine."
Then Adam and Eve clung to the Lord like the frightened children they were, in so many ways. "Why, why?" Eve asked through her tears and Adam pleaded, "Can't we just stay here in the garden with you? Why do we have to leave?"
"Because there is another tree," the Lord explained gently, "and were you to eat of this one it would set you permanently in this half-dead state; you would live forever but never really live. To protect you from this tree, I must lock you out of the garden." And with those heavy words He began to drive them out, pressing them forward while they fought to cling to Him.
Finally He called angels, cherubim with flaming swords, and He stationed them to block the way in to the garden, and however much Adam and Eve pleaded, the cherubim would not be moved and neither would they be tempted to disobey the Lord and let the humans back into the garden.
For many years Eve walked the perimeter, crying out to the Lord, asking Him to just come and walk with them again.
Her children saw her do this, walking with her when they were little – but they worked the hard ground with Adam when they grew older.