Adam, remembering upon returning to Eden:
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My sons all had a foolish notion that burnt sacrifices would somehow appease the Maker. Perhaps, they thought, He might change His mind and allow us back into His good grace. Such is the foolishness of children. I always promised myself, if I ever found Eden again, I would cut down all the trees, burn it all, plow it under and sow salt in the furrows. Men like me are not for Paradise made.
Now at the end of everything, my feet carry me on a path I did not know they had remembered. Past the fields, now desert, where I first planted grain. Past the hills where I taught myself to hunt. Back to the Place We Do Not Name, as I taught them to name it. Oh, what a young fool I was–the Namer-of-Things himself pretending to forget what a name was. But in my foolishness I discovered a more successful project: inventing Polite Conversation, then making the Maker Himself an Impolite Subject. He had to go, and I was glad to make His riddance.
We had to go too, though. After nine centuries, I realized the kids were uncomfortable having the old and more and more embarrassingly undying Patriarch and Matriarch still sitting around the hearth, but the old Serpent’s Curse had stuck, and there was no getting around it. I finally found Cain again, though I think Eve hated me for it, and he helped us fake our deaths. We went east then, past Nod, following rumors of new lands and strange crops, and left this country for good.
Happy timing too, because it wasn’t too many centuries later before the Good Old Neighborhood went bad, and I mean really bad. After we had quashed that calling-on-the-name-of-the-LORD business, we started to have trouble with the Nephilim. The way I hear it, after we left, things got out of control. I never trusted that bunch, but by that time society had become too sophisticated to inquire deeply into matters–one worshiped, or one should not be so rude as to speak up.
I’m quite certain that Cain was somewhere at the bottom of it, that I-wish-he-were-a-bastard son of mine. He always was the practical sort, just like me, but too serious. The method, Cain, the method! I’m certain that because of Cain, humankind learned the names of Moloch and Ba’al, those lords of death. Death was new, back then, and a fearful and impolite thing. Some things never change, except the newness wears away. Cain, the practical, serious man, the innovator, learned to use them well, just as his son had learned to use tools of metal. What he might have given, or what else he might have received in return from those dark allies, I can only guess. I can say this for him: whatever else he has done, he earned his reputation honestly.
Then the flood came, and washed it all away. Eve and I weathered the storm by our wits. We still had the Curse on our side, and perhaps we were spared also because Eve was past child-bearing and I past the getting. I’m certain Cain survived–I never saw him again, but I have seen the work of his hand and recognized his mark. If Cain lived, then his sister Hannah must have also, for I believe she was the only child of mine that Cain ever truly loved.
I think they both ate something they shouldn’t have, and so by another route entered into the Serpent’s Curse. I don’t know where they would have gone now–the world has grown cold, and I only hope they have been allowed to fade away with the rest of my children.
And there now is Eden, just over the next hill. The sentinel waits for me, but I will dismiss him from his post, with words I learned so long ago. Then Eden will freeze like the rest of this tired world, freeze just as I have also grown old. I will not set fire to this garden, for I have no spark, and that old desire has cooled. But I will still find my pleasure in the fate of Eden in an eternal age of frost, for as the poet hath wrought,
for destruction ice is also nice, and will suffice.
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