Eve was having an amazing day. An incredible day, she might even say a perfect day. Come to think of it, all her days had been amazing for as long as she could remember. After she woke she had feested on a fistful of quail’s eggs and spent the morning exploring the garden. After a short siesta she went for a run through the nearby cherry orchard, her deep powerful breaths absorbing the delicate scent of the blossom; her bare feet nimbly navigated their way through the tangle of twisted roots which matted the ground. Before the sun set she dived into the nearby pool for a quick swim to round off the day. The cool water cleared the sticky sweat that had congealed on her forehead and armpits. Back and forth she pounded, gracefully from one side of the pool to the other; three strong strokes with her arms, and then a breath, tumbling and pushing powerfully off from the side each time she reached the end of the short pool, enjoying the sensation of slowly perfecting her stroke.
She stopped just before she was exhausted, but still tired enough to have reached that state of empty headed bliss that came after a workout. Her brain was too tired to worry her now with its usual tedious chatter. She had reached the perfect state of mind for the sex that she would surely enjoy with her love that evening.
Adam was waiting for her, laying naked on his back; already erect in anticipation of what was to come. Small talk could wait, there was a more pressing itch to be scratched first. Adam kissed her and licked her just how she liked it; first gently and then firmly, building the delicious anticipation of the inevitable. She was already profoundly wet when he entered her expertely from above. They fucked for seven and a half mintues and came at precisely the same time, just as they always did.
Afterwards she lay on his chest, deeply content, counting his ribs as he lay on his back, drifting slowly to sleep. 1, 2, 3. Her mind was beautifully still; her thoughts gentler than usual, much less demanding of attention. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. How strange, she thought, that humans were divided from the beasts of the garden by their ability to reason, yet were at their happiest when they were thinking of nothing at all. 9, 10, 11, 12. He was snoring deeply now. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. She wondered how it was that he always came just as she was ready to achieve climax, it was like he somehow knew. 19, 20, 21 Nearly done now. 22, 23, her nightly ritual was finished and she allowed sleep to flood through her eyes, her nostrils, her lungs and finally her mind.
As she slept Adam’s seed worked its way inside her, fussing with her own life force and creating something new.
Life really was good.
Adam felt a warm glow when he thought about Eve; his “wife”. He didn’t know what the word meant, but it felt right to him. He missed her even though he saw her everyday. She was away running or exploring, as she loved to do. His love for her was more nourishing to him than the evening supper that they always shared together. It made him feel content to gather food, knowing that he was providing for her. In reality the gathering of food was a relaxing and pleasant pastime in its own right; fruit and nuts grew in abundance in every corner of the garden, meaning his job was rarely taxing.
Sometimes, if he was in a special mood, he would hunt a sloth. They were easy to catch. He sometimes wished they would run away or put up a fight. He only had to reach up and grab the sloth and cut its throat with a sharp rock, or else hurl a sharpened bamboo stick deep into its guts or heart. He would then stuff it with garlic and olives and roast it over the open fire which he built every evening. Delicious.
He himself had named the sloth. It was an archaic form of the word lazy. He was happy with that one, he felt the thrill of his own cleverness at such an apt yet subtle name and wished he could explain his cleverness to someone, but he knew that an explicit explanation would ruin the cleverness. Cleverness like this had to seem easy and unforced for it to come across as genuine, he could only hope that Eve would cotton on and give him the kudos he so clearly knew he deserved.
The only thing that concerned him is that they may one day run out of sloths. They were so easy to catch that he could easily eat one every day, however, he reasoned to himself, once the sloth was caught and eaten, it was gone for good. New baby sloths would appear in the garden from time to time, although exactly how that process worked was still mysterious to Adam. Instead, he contented himself with eating sloths only on special occasions, keeping the taste of their tender meat as a special treat.
Eve was growing fat, which was another thing that concerned him. It wasn’t just a layer of fat spread thinly and evenly over her otherwise highly toned body. That kind of fat Adam had seen before, it waxed and waned with the moon and suited her rather well. No, this was an altogether less natural distribution of body weight. It came first on her breasts, which began to sag slightly under their newly acquired weight. It then moved rapidly to her belly, where it sat in increasingly ridiculous isolation, bulging over her still slim thighs. Adam wasn’t sure if it even was fat, it was so hard and cold; unmoving to his cautious touch. Eve’s rapidly changing body was a subject of some concern for Adam, but a subject which he kept to himself.
Eve on the other hand seemed completely unperturbed by her new found proportions, she carried it with a graceful ease, as if this were the most natural and expected thing in the world. Adam tried to follow suit, not daring to ask her what was happening, but instead playing along; he tried to act reassuringly blasé about what was happening, so as not to spook Eve, although he had absolutely no idea what was happening to her. His resolve to act with stoic calm, whatever befell Eve, was pushed to the limit as Eve returned, earlier than normal, to the camp that afternoon. She was breathing in a laboured and heavy manner, as if she had just finished a particularly strenuous run, but rather than the normal gulping deep breaths she would take to pay off the dept of tiredness that her run usually incurred, her breaths were shallow and panicked, coming in short sharp irregular spasms. A sticky watery liquid began to flow from out of her legs. She lay flat on her back with her legs spread apart as her breathing intensified.
Then the most disturbing and unexpected thing happened. After twenty or so minutes of pushing, a small child's head emerged from her vagina! Adam felt sick. Eve, on the other hand, seemed fine; showing none of the trauma that Adam would have expected of someone who had just undergone such an ordeal.
As Eve propped herself up on her elbows, cradling the baby, the single verbal acknowledgement that came from her was a disarmingly simple and naive question, addressed directly to Adam. “What’s this on his stomach?”
Adam, with his back to Eve, taking deep, deliberately slow breaths through his nose, fighting down the queasiness that gurgled unpleasantly up from his belly, could only muster the words “oh, that’s normal”. It was important to keep Eve calm, and not portray the panic that he was feeling.
After he had regained a modicum of composure Adam decided to call the baby Able, glad now that he had perfected the subtle art of naming on the garden’s many species of beasts, fowl and fish that crawled, flew and swam in the garden.
Able was a fine name, and he was pleased with what he had created.
Eve had felt her breasts and belly growing bigger over many weeks. She didn’t really know what was going on, but she was calm, it felt somehow natural to her. She still ran, but not as quickly as before. She felt an urge to eat the more esoteric and unusual nuts and fruits that grew in the garden; preferring the complex bitterness of olives and capers over the saccharine sweetness of mangos and pineapples. Otherwise she felt no adverse effects.
One night she went for a swim, her heavy belly dragging awkwardly against the clear water. As she got out of the pool the words “it is time” appeared unbeckoned in her head. She didn’t know what the words meant, but she knew what to do. She stumbled back home, water pouring uncontrollably from her vagina, and lay on her back with her legs open. She felt a gentle sting in between her legs, and a dull strain in her abdomen as she began to push. The experience was not altogether pleasant; it was a good twenty minutes before the head of a small child poked its way out of her legs and the ordeal was finally at an end. Her first thoughts, now that she was a mother, were of a generally perplexed nature, yet at a more instinctive level the process felt natural, expected almost. She held up the crying infant and cradled him as she clambered ungracefully to her feet, feeling suddenly lighter. The infant had the weird appendage between his legs that Adam also had, although even smaller than his. He also had something that neither she nor Adam had: a strange dimple on his stomach. She asked Adam what it was, curious, but not concerned, but his answer was dismissive, betraying that fact that he was miles away and not remotely interested in what had just happened. When Adam finally acknowledged the child, he did so only to give him a name; Able. What a ridiculous name. Typical, thought Eve, yet she was too light headed to put up a fight.
Able began drinking the milk from her breasts, then quickly graduated to mushed up mango and yam. His weirdly bare gums began to sprout delicate milky teeth, which later fell out and were replaced by normal grown-up teeth that looked ridiculously big in his still not fully-formed jaw. After several months of imposing himself on Eve, Able was finally able to look after himself. Although Eve had found the process of caring for the child surprisingly fulfilling, she was, all things considered, glad to get back to her routine of exploring, running and swimming, and of course the regular love making with Adam. A full seven months after he was born Able was self-sufficient enough to wander into the garden by himself; they would still see him from time to time as he popped into the camp to say hello and sit round the fire, but most of the time he kept to himself.
Eve swam back and forth across the short pool, as she always did. This time, however, something felt different. She felt observed. A small creature was hanging upside down from the low branches of the nearby fig tree. How peculiar, she thought, the sensation of being observed, she was used to the sensation of observing, but there was nothing in the garden, at least that she had encountered, besides her and Adam, that could observe. She wondered if this was how the mangos felt as she spied them hanging from a tree just before she strained upwards to grab them.
The creature's weird beady eyes rotated unnaturally back and forth in its eye sockets as she swam back and forth, all the while not moving its neck. A slimy cylindrical tongue slapped out of its mouth and across it’s narrow lips as she hauled herself out of the pool. As the creature's eyes darted over her wet body the word “naked” popped into her head. She didn’t know what it meant.
To her immense surprise the creature, a lizard, she thought she remembered Adam naming it, began to speak. She didn’t realise that any of the animals could speak, she thought that was a gift that only she and Adam possessed. Only the brightly coloured birds that lived in the trees, which Adam had named parrots, could utter a few words in uncomprehending repetition. In one of her more mischievous moods she had even taught one of the bonobos some rudimentary sign language, but the conversations with her had been stilted and one sided, usually concerning the acquisition of bananas. This lizard could speak just as she or Adam could. She found it creepy the way it lisped and slurped its way along its long crawling sentences. As it climbed ungainly down from its branch she couldn’t help but think that its legs looked misplaced, as if they were the legs of another creature that had been glued onto the trunk of his body as a hasty afterthought.
“I’ve been watching you Eve” it lisped. How unsettling that he knows my name, and yet more unsettling the way that he lets his tongue linger outside his mouth after he utters it.
“What?” Eve spluttered, suffering from an uncharacteristic lack of articulacy.
“I’ve been watching you swim up and down that pool all evening long, it’s quite mesmerising you know. Would you find it disturbing if I were to ask you a question?”
“Hmm, right then”, Eve felt uneasy. There was something unsettling about this beast, something ungodly. She had very few people to speak to in the garden, however, and this lizard, despite it’s sinister creepiness, had a certain alluring charm, if only because she felt flattered by the careful and undivided attention that the lizard paid her. After an extended and awkward silence she decided to engage him.
“Well? What’s your question then?”
“Don’t you ever get bored?”
The question was innocuous enough, yet there was a poniancy to the thread of reasoning that the question revealed, as if simply thinking about the question would lead to an inevitable shattering of innocence.
“Not really” Eve tearsly, and, as way of backing up her claim, she added, “it’s refreshing and relaxing”.
“Yes, yes. I know. Exercise is most invigorating”, it’s beady eyes shot briefly to the side, as if carefully weighing up his next move. “But isn’t it tedious?” His strange little tongue poked its way out of his tessellating layer of tiny sharp teeth once again, and almost as an afterthought he added: “your life I mean”.
“Why do you say that?” Said Eve, trying to be defiant, yet the kernel of doubt had planted itself in her mind.
“Every day is the same, don’t you think?” Eve said nothing in reply. “You get up, eat, explore, sleep, exercise, fuck and sleep again”. The lizzard seemed to delight in the word “fuck” as if, of all the activities he had listed, only this one interested him and all the others were tedious, vacuous nothings.
“Yes actually” Eve began to smile. “Fucking fantastic isn’t it”, placing the same emphasis on her f words as the lizard had done.
“Don’t get me wrong dearest Eve, I understand the pleasure in food and fornication as much as anyone does. It’s just …”
“It’s just, don’t you think that your life lacks something. Don’t you wish your life had meaning?”
Eve was truly perplexed now; as if her mind was a gong, reverberating harshly from the short sharp hit to its centre. She stuttered a response: “How can life have meaning? I mean, words have meanings. The stories Adam tells me as I lay on his chest at night have meanings, but lives cannot, as far as I know, mean anything.”
“Well yes, you’re probably right” the lizard paused, drawing air strongly through his almost non-existent lips.
Eve was running a little short on patience. She could have ended it there. Simply walked away. Things would have been very different, but she didn’t. There was nothing better to do right then at that moment, and the concept of danger had hardly occurred to her in the garden, which is why, when the lizard asked her to follow him, beckoning ungracefully with its stuby forelimb, she followed.
The lizard took Eve to a part of the garden that she had never been to before. She thought she had been everywhere, but clearly the lizard knew the place better than she did. Perhaps he had been here much longer than she had, lurking in some dark unexplored corner of their world, under a damp rock perhaps, under which Eve had never thought to look. Through a thicket of rose bushes which prickeled against Eve’s skin as she forced her way through. “Not much further, hissed the lizard”.
The barely existent path widened into a small clearing, where the rose bushes thinned enough for Eve to walk safely amongst them without scratching her bare calves. It was not immediately clear why the lizard had brought her here, there was nothing remarkable, as far as Eve could tell, in the patchy clearing that warranted the difficulty they had endured to get here.
The lizard pointed with its beady eyes to a small plant that lay nestled between the roses. Eve had missed it, as it was at first sight unremarkable. A thin yellow grass, so yellow that it seemed to have sucked the colour from the sunlight itself. The tall yellow blades widened at the top to a heavy cluster of tightly packed seeds; so heavy that the thin grassy stalk sagged under their weight. Nestled amongst the grainy seeds were clumps of hard yellow hair that reminded Eve of the sparse hair on the head of a newborn sloth. The lizard looked on expectantly.
“And?” said Eve.
The lizard said nothing, but licked his lips sinisterly; his meaning was clear: he wanted Eve to eat the grassy plant. It was not immediately clear to Eve that this grass was even edible, indeed she had never even seen the plant before, let alone thought about eating it. She was sure that Adam also didn’t know about the plant, otherwise it would already have a name. Still, she had come this far, and didn’t want to let the lizard down, so she crouched slightly on her knees and began to gather some of the seeds, scratching her hands on the rose thorns as she did so. It was hard work to gather enough of the seeds to constitute even a mouthful. She had to work even harder to clean them of their hairs, and even then she was not sure how she could tackle them; they seemed to be cased in a thick inedible shell. She decided to bite into them, crunching through the hard encasing. The brittle shell splintered and wedged itself unpleasantly between her gums and her teeth, causing a small trickle of blood to mix with the masticated paste of the plant’s seeds. After a few mouthfuls she became more adept at avoiding the sharp shell fragments penetrating her gums and gathered more and more of the seeds into her mouth. She didn’t swallow immediately, instead chewing the seeds into a thick mush. At first the mush had a dull savoury flavour, neither objectionable nor remarkable, but as she chewed more the flavour began to sweeten, as if the combination of the paste and her saliva changed it somehow. She began to enjoy the taste a little more, despite the fact that it had been hard work to even get a mouthful of this stuff, or no, perhaps precisely because it was such hard work. There were two layers of sweetness to her mid-afternoon snack: the subtle sweetness that emerged after chewing hard on the paste and combining it with her saliva, and the new kind of mental sweetness that came from working so hard on gathering and eating this weird plant and to have your efforts finally rewarded. This was a new sensation for Eve. She gathered another few handfuls of the seeds and went back to the camp to share them with Adam. Adam
Adam was having a day. A great day you could say, but he would not have used that word. Not because he was not having a great day, he really was, just that all his days were spent in magnificent enjoyment that he would not have felt the need to add the adjective.
He gathered the mangoes into his wicker basket, which Eve had lovingly made for him, added a few soft root vegetables and nuts and a bundle of sugarcane that he would mush into a delicious syrup to be slurped down after their dinner.
It had taken him a full forty minutes to gather enough food for their evening meal, with enough left over for a hearty breakfast the morning after. He looked at the wicker basket that Eve had made for him and was covered with a warm blanket of love; providing for her and their child only deepened the love he felt for them. Everything felt right.
Eve appeared on the brow of the hill. Her gait suggested that she was in more of a hurry than usual. As she drew nearer her face suggested she had something to tell Adam.
“Look darling. Look what I found!” Eve opened her bulging fists to reveal two handfuls of dark yellow seeds encased in a hard rusky shell.
Adam was nonplussed. They had enough to eat; their diet was broad and satisfying so there was no need for Eve to interfere and add more fruits or nuts to the equation, especially not one as unappetising as this. Still, in his more philosophical moods, Adam would admit that Eve had a sort of tacit wisdom that he sometimes lacked, so he was willing to at least humour her.
“What is this darling?” Adam asked with faux patience.
“I found it in the rose bushes, behind the pool. It’s a sort of seed that we have never eaten before. It’s quite hard work to get it out of its shell, but in the end rather delicious. If you get used to it”.
Adam sensed that there was something more to the story which Eve was holding back, but he didn’t press her as it seemed of trifling importance. Why not indulge her this once, thought Adam, afterall, nothing bad could come of it. But first the plant would need a name.
“Wheat” declared Adam, glad to have another chance to give something a name, it had been a while since they had found anything new in the garden.
They incorporated the seeds into their dinner, Adam inventing an elaborate process to make the seeds more palatable, and to rid them of their hard shells. After they ate, their bellies aching with indigestion, they made love once more under the full moon. Adam went to relieve his bladder for a final time before he slept, so that he would not be woken later by the urge to urinate. As he did so he threw a few of the uneaten wheat seeds into the patch of churned up dirt by the side of the camp. Eve lay snoring on her back in post-coital bliss, Adam’s seed entering her for a second time.
Cain, their second son, had entered puberty. He had the appendage between his legs that Adam had, along with the weird dimple on his stomach, like his older brother. He had been a difficult child, and a difficult birth. His big head had hurt much more than his brother’s. At first he had refused her nipple with such adamant stubbornness that she had thought he would surely starve to death before he had even learned to walk. In desperation, and she didn’t know what had inspired her to try this, she had smeared mushed up wheat onto her breast. It worked; the baby Cain took to her teet with gusto. Almost too well in fact, she thought; from that day onwards he would eat like a devil, never satiated. He ate and ate and ate, his diet subsidised in no small part by the wheat paste that his mother fed to him, much more manageable to his gummy mouth than the hard nuts and fruits of the garden; until soon he was bigger than his brother, despite the fact that he was three years his junior. Anyone who didn’t know would think he was the older of the two.
Eve had lost her freedom. Cain was much more demanding than his little big brother had been. Able, after the initial intensive phase was over, had quickly become self-sufficient, and spent many days exploring the garden by himself, even spending a good portion of his adolescence infiltrating a troop of baboons. They would still see him in the camp from time to time, but he was much more of a comrade than a dependant. Cain, on the other hand, could not be more different; he was much more demanding of her time, clinging to her needily, screaming insolently when her attention was elsewhere. She loved him in her own way, but she couldn’t suppress the thought that she wished he was more like his brother. Sometimes, in her darker moments, she wished he had not been born, that they had been satisfied with the one child, and had lived out their days in simple routine, free from the heavy responsibilities that their difficult second son had brought them.
The real difficulties had begun when Cain had gained the physical edge over his older brother, which came when Cain entered adolescence. His puberty brought him an almost unnatural bout of growth, which left him awkward in his own skin; as if his skeleton, skin and muscles all belonged to different people. He moved in an ungainly manner; his knew-found wiry muscles responding unpredictably to the commands of his brain. He walked with a slight stoop, as if unsure or unwilling to take up too much space in the world in which he had found himself. His upper back curved over, his shoulders hunched, and his dark beady eyes peared up from behind a downwards facing furrowed brow. He used his physical advantage to torture his brother; he would sometimes bite his ear viciously and without provocation, or else grab his nipples, one in each hand, and twist as hard as he could. Eve couldn’t imagine what this was doing to the self esteem of the diminutive Able, yet rather than cultivate hatred or anger, the bullying led to an intensification of the adoration that Able bestowed upon his younger brother. Every chinese burn, every broken finger, every stamped on toe, was repaid by more love. Strange things, these human beings, thought Eve.
Eve’s breasts had sagged towards her stomach so that they bounced awkwardly if she tried to run. Her stomach had lost its elasticity, so that it looked like the neck of the flightless bird that Adam had called a “turkey”. Her knees, oh her knees! At first they hurt when she tried to run; then they began to hurt even if she walked at a gentle pace, before long they simply hurt; so that she gave up trying to avoid pain, and simply settled into a new routine in which the pain was a part of her waking experience. She didn’t know if she was enjoying her life if she ever stopped to consider such a question, which is fairness she rarely did.
That evening Adam told her that he had an idea. Dread sank into her body, appearing first at the back of her throat, and sinking slowly like an evening fog down her oesophagus and into the pit of her stomach. Something deep in her being knew that when a man had an idea it was rarely good; somehow she knew this although Adam was the only man she had ever known, and he had, up to this point, never had an idea.
This cannot be good.
Adam raced down the hill to their home, burning with excitement. This would change everything. Eve would love it. He hoped that she was at home. As he half stumbled down the hill he saw that Eve was already there. Good. He started formulating in his mind how he would explain the idea to her. In the camp he brought out a few strands of grass from behind his back.
“You know this plant?” He launched into his premeditated explanation without exchanging the usual pleasantries with Eve that she was accustomed to.
“Ah yes…” suspicion seeping out from between the gaps in her vocal cords. “Wheat I think you called it, darling.”
“That’s right!” He was glad she remembered. “And you remember that time we ate it.”
Eve began to chuckle. It was many years ago that night when they first tasted the wheat, the same night on which Cain was conceived. They had perfected the process of preparing it over the next few weeks, but apart from feeding it to Cain they barely ate it anymore, losing interest in its dull savoury flavour in favour of the rich and varied fruits and nuts of the gardens.
“Oh yes! It was so much work to break open the hard case of the seeds. Then we spent ages sifting through the grains to separate them from the hard husks of the empty shells. Then we didn’t know what to do with the seeds; so we ground them down to a powder and made a paste out of them by mixing them with a little milk and salt, and baked the paste over the fire. It was quite tasty in the end, I must admit, but hardly worth the effort, and the paste got stuck in my teeth for days. Yes I remember.” Eve added in mocking conclusion.
Her tone of scepticism broke Adam’s stride only for a moment. He ploughed on. “Yes, well. I was thinking. After we did that I threw away some of the seeds that we didn’t eat over there by the side of the camp.”
He pointed to an overgrown patch at the edge of their clearing where the guineafowl liked to dig for worms in the loose dirt. Adam pointed more vigorously, even going as far as grabbing Eve’s head and pushing it forcefully in the direction he was pointing. He felt certain that, had Eve seen what he was looking at, the enormity of his discovery would have elicited a much more animated response from her. Instead, the thin lines that had begun to find a permanent home between Eve’s eyebrows had deepened into two more serious forrows, expressing perfectly the perplexion that Eve was feeling.
“Adam, darling, what has got into you?” She resented having her head janked into position, and the patronising impatience that Adam was just barely suppressing.
“OK, well here’s the thing:” Adam felt racked with doubt; would Eve appreciate the genius of what he was about to say? “A few months after I threw the seeds on the ground, new plants began to appear.”
“Uh-hu” was all that Eve could muster, her patience running as thin as the dwindling sunlight of the encroaching dusk.
“Well,” Continued Adam, “I think that’s what the seeds are for.” Nothing could stop him now, his thoughts were like the stampeding buffalos in spring. “Just like when I plant my seed in you, it makes more humans, well when we plant the seeds of the wheat into the earth it makes more wheat plants. That’s how life perpetuates itself in the garden. Everything has a seed. When the seed grows in a womb it makes more of that creature. Except the wheat plants don’t need the womb of a woman; the earth is their womb. That’s how the garden works. And, here’s the really clever part, we can take control of the process. Harness it to our own advantage. We can be the gardeners in this garden, rather than one of the beasts.” The excitement of his thoughts had spilled from his voice and into his movements; he was jumping and running around now, his every word further underlined with wild gesticulation of his limbs and face. “And there’s more; what if we clear a section of the garden, near to our own home, say that flat plane over there at the base of the hill where the river meanders. We dig the earth into little furrows at a set distance, and carefully place one wheat seed at regular intervals along each furrow. Then after a few months we would have as much wheat as we could possibly eat, all without having to leave the camp.”
Eve was concerned now, but she felt that her protestations would not fall on fertile ground. “But I much prefer mangoes darling. And besides, I rather like leaving the camp. Won’t we be tied down to living here forever, eating the same food all the time. Sounds a bit boring.”
“And that’s not all my love” Adam continued, all but ignoring Eve’s objections. “If we kept a few seeds aside we could plant even more next year and grow even more wheat. That way we would have enough to eat for as long as we live.”
The thought of eating nothing but wheat for as long as she lived filled Eve’s head with a dense fog of despair, but there was no stopping Adam. She was hit with a wall of tiredness that penetrated deep into her joints. She could not fight Adam, so she acquiesced wearily. “Ok Darling. If you think that’s the right thing to do, then I’ll support you.” Adam sensed the reticence in Eve’s voice, but he knew in his heart that he was right.
Over the next few days he began to clear a patch of the garden and plough the land. It was back-achingly hard work, but it was also satisfying to build something from the ground with his own two hands. His farm.
It was now the third time they had harvested the wheat. Adam’s bones remembered the previous times with trepidation. There would be very little sleep over the next few days. His back would begin to complain loudly, twisted and broken out of shape from all the bending over. Reaching up to pick fruit from a tree agreed with his spine quite nicely, but spending the day crouched over strained his vertebrae to the point of breaking. Even standing up straight felt like a hardship now, to the point that he walked around with a constant hunch in his upper back. He still hadn’t recovered from the last harvest, exactly one year ago. It was impossible for him to imagine where a whole year had gone. Without variety in his life, time had taken on a new level of meaninglessness, only the waxing and waning of his crop, and the slow deterioration of his body, and teeth, marked the passing of time.
Able and Cain had started to help more with the farm, as it expanded further into the garden, growing beyond the base of the hill, and encroaching into the nearby fruit groves. As well as tending to the farm, a great deal of Adam’s attention was spent in keeping an eye on his youngest son. He would beat his older, but by now much smaller, brother whenever Adam turned his back. Cain had grown almost as big as Adam, and was probably already much stronger; it wouldn’t be long until Adam’s authority over the child would vanish entirely. I resent that child, the ugly thought turned over repeatedly in his head and refused to be dislodged.
Adam’s tongue pushed down on his bottom right molar, a dull pain turning into a sharp one as he inspected his tooth with his tongue. Why did he press it with his tongue when it caused him such agony? He couldn’t stop himself. Humans are strange creatures, he thought idly to himself as he gathered another bustle of wheat into his wicker basket.
In a rare moment of emotional intimacy he confided in Eve. Things are much worse now, things were better in the past. She could offer no words of comfort, but instead tried to seduce him, reasoning that sex, one of the things that Adam enjoyed the most in the past, would help to cheer him up. He couldn’t remember the last time he and Eve had had sex. They were always too tired when the day drew to a close, and Adam felt too compelled to begin tending to the farm as soon as the sun was up to make love in the morning. In a flash of inspiration Eve covered her breasts and pubic hair with large fig leaves, reasoning that keeping her body mysterious to Adan would elicit a strong errotic reaction in him. Astute psychologist that she was, Eve was right. Adam hurriedly undressed her, with furied excitement. Although she has been naked in his presence for as long as they have known each other, for as long as they have been alive, it was Eve’s invention of clothing that in fact brought the concept of nudity, by contrast, to life. Adam got hard for what felt like the first time in years and entered her abruptly. He felt his back screaming at him as he thrust frantically on top of her, but continued regardless. In no time at all he came inside her, more perfunctory than pleasurable, but not without its satisfaction. Eve did not come.
They cuddled, eyelids drooping as if held down by lead weights.
“Oh Adam” Eve pleaded “Let’s go back to how things were, it’s not too late sweetheart.”
Adam began to sob gently, pathetically, uncontrollably. “No. It’s too late”. He asserted without clarification.
“No, it’s not too late darling. It’s not too late” There was a tenderness between them now that had briefly been rekindled, previously masked by a veil of complacency and exhaustion.
He turned away from her and pushed her hand from his head. He could not bear to share his misery, but he had to confide in Eve. He talked to her, but turned his gaze away, as if talking to the cold unsympathetic stars in the clear night sky.
“You don’t understand, '' he went on. “I burnt the fruit trees to make room for yet more farmland. There is no more fruit”.
“What!” Choked Eve, the enormity of their predicament beginning to hit her.
“It gets worse”. He couldn’t bear to say what he was about to say, but he had to. “Those trees are where the sloths lived. They are all dead. There are no more sloths. There is no more fruit.”
“You did fucking what!?” The fragile tenderness that Eve still held for Adam had all but evaporated now, there was only cold loathing left in its place.
“It’s OK love” he turned to face her now, tears rolling freely down his horizontal face, from his right eye into his left eye, from his left eye onto the cracked dirt below them. “We can live off the wheat.”
There was nothing more to say, because there were no more decisions to be made. That was it; tend to the wheat, or starve to death, that was the dichotomy that they now faced. They could be animated by nothing other than the cold primordial instinct to perpetuate their lives until they could be perpetuated no more.
Eve had become pregnant again, unbidden and initially unnoticed, caused by the single session of love making that had transpired between them in the last year. She knew the signs, it was almost time, once again, to bring another child into the world. Just like with the wheat plants; just as Adam ensured that every wheat plant gave birth to more than one additional wheat plant, so that they could multiply further into the garden, so too did they, Adam and Eve, multiply themselves and expand into the world. This was something that had to happen, she knew that, but could not explain why.
This baby felt different. She had held the baby inside her belly for much longer than the other two, just over nine months in total, she knew by counting the waxing and waning moons since they had made love. Her belly was enormous. She looked like she could topple over at any moment. As if she were one of the big grey creatures that lived in the river, that had suddenly decided to try to walk around on its back legs. A sight which would surely have been extremely amusing. She, however, did not find her predicament at all funny. Far from it. A laugh had not trickled out of her now permanently creased face since the night that Adam had put a baby inside her. The corners of her ageing mouth pointed permanently down towards the earth. She must give birth soon, if this went on for much longer she would surely explode like a ripe watermelon under the foot of a stampeding elephant.
Adam was planting a new furrow of wheat, expanding his farm purely for the sake of having dominion over more of the garden. Much of the original garden was missing now, burnt to the ground and ploughed over to make way for Adam’s ever expanding empire of wheat. As the years wore on he had invented more and more ways of making farming more efficient. He had fashioned a sort of plough from two branches of birch and binded a sharp rock where the branches met, with this device he was able to dig small trenches in the ground by pulling it along behind him. Later he had even managed to fassen his device to the back of an ox, and compel it to pull the plough behind it, so that the heavy work of digging the furrows was done by the unwitting beast. Yet the ox consumed so much wheat that the innovation led to no real gains for them. There was more wheat now, but they needed more wheat to sustain the beast that dug the holes for them. At best they had broken even, there was more and more wheat, but never more time or more rest.
Adam surveyed his empire. The monotonous endless expanse of golden brown, stretching as far as he could see, had a certain simple beauty to it. His life was now consumed with expanding the wheat as far as he could, without need to justify what he was doing; it had become an aim in itself, the only thing that really animated him as he entered the late afternoon of his life.
Adam stopped and placed a seed in the furrow that he and his ox had dug this morning. He took another step, pulled out another seed from his wicker basket which was fastened to his shoulder, and placed another seed. He twisted awkwardly, his vertebrae coming apart as he did so. The thick knotted muscles between his shoulder blades spasmed in exquisite agony, giving their everything to keep his back in one piece, but burning and tearing themselves in their effort. The muscles in his lower back responded in kind, trying to keep him in one piece. The air was expelled from his lungs against his will; it was as if two giant hands had rung him like a wet sponge and discarded him on the floor. He crumpled in a heap, barely able to move, or even to call out for help. His two children were nowhere to be seen, and his wife was so pregnant that she could hardly have helped him, even if he could have mustered the breath to call to her.
In the distance he heard screams coming from the camp. More and more screams, clearly those of his wife, in an agony of her own. As the screams grew louder he knew she was in real trouble, yet he could do nothing to help the love of his life. All he could do was claw at the freshly tilled earth and listen in agony as the screams grew louder and then weaker. Tears streamed down his face.
This had been a terrible mistake.
It was time. The three words that had popped unbidden into her head for the third time in Eve’s life; this time tinged with a deep foreboding that was not present the last two times. She could barely move, she had not left her camp for many weeks now. She had only left her bed to urinate, which she had had to do increasingly frequently, as the enormous head of the baby pushed rudely against her bladder.
She tried to call to Adam, but he was of course busy with the farm; the farm that had grown so large that she could now longer see its edge from their camp. She called again, but Adam did not respond. She did not want to do this alone, but it was too late, it was already coming. She cursed that damn farm and that damn crop.
The cramps hit her hard and rippled painfully down her spine and into her abdomen. For hours she willed the pain to abate, but as the sun dipped behind the hills the pain simply intensified without mercy until it became almost unbearable. The pain pushed past unbearable into indescribable agony as the muscles in her abdomen began to tear. Finally, the baby’s head began to crown, tearing her more as it came out. Her back convulsed, her teeth bit down into the inside of her own cheeks in a vain attempt to escape her own consciousness. There was nowhere else to be but inside her own experience, the place that she least wanted to be in the whole world, but she found herself there and could not leave. This was happening, and no amount of wishing could change that. She screamed louder and louder, and, as she got weaker, finally the screams became weaker and more pathetic, as she felt the spark of life leaving her slowly. She wondered if she was dead, but the very act of wondering confirmed to her that she was still alive, there was something that was still asking, and therefore she was still alive. Finally, the baby was born, but as she looked down between her legs she knew there was far too much blood.
As she lay there dying the lizard reappeared, slithering onto her sweat laden clammy cold shoulder.
“You mother fucker” she managed to muster, she wanted her last words to be full of the venom which she now felt for the lizard, and for the garden, for Adam, and for his farm, and for life itself. With her last ounce of strength she tore the limbs from the stupid lizzard’s body, and, for good measure, grabbed its vile tongue and tore it in two. This final act of violence gave her a glow of satisfaction before she died.
The last thoughts that crossed her mind as she faded from consciousness forever were; this had been a terrible mistake.
Cain appeared from over the brow of the hill. His hands matted with the congealing blood of his now dead brother. He loomed over the corpse of his mother, savagery in his dark eyes, and picked up the howling baby and carried her off to the farm; his farm.