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09 December 2008

Genesis Chapter 3, 2.0

I first read this short story, "Final Version," in an anthology of sci-fi/fantasy "short-shorts" when I was in high school, circa the late '80s. Several years ago, I managed to track down that anthology again at the public library -- and recognizing this story like an old friend, I transcribed it before returning the library book.

It's been on that hard-drive ever since, and I recently went searching for the file after someone on commented about the need to re-interpret Bible stories (in the context of a thread about creationism and "Intelligent Design™").

But this story has nothing to do with Adam and Eve riding around on dinosaurs. What the author John Morressey asks the reader to imagine, instead, is that the whole Garden of Eden drama with the man and the woman munching on the forbidden fruit and then getting kicked out of the garden, as described in the third chapter of Genesis, has actually been played out on many, many planets throughout the Universe. In this story, which takes place on an Earth-like planet that isn't our Earth, inhabited by an Adam and Eve who aren't our ancestors, Morressey presents his own twist ending to "The Fall of Adam."

Final Version
by John Morressey
      His days were full of work, but the life here was good. Each day brought new discoveries. On his long, strong legs he ranged far over this unfamiliar world, feeding a curiosity that grew with each day's nourishment. The woman, too, devoted her time to exploring, and between them they had already learned much about their new home.
    After his long day of questing he returned hungry and dusty, but in good spirits. She had come back before him, and at the sight of him she brought out food. As they ate, he told her of his day's findings.
    ''Did you see any new animals?'' she asked.
    ''Some flying creatures. They're beautiful things.''
    ''Oh, take me with you tomorrow! Please, I want to see them!'' The woman hopped from foot to foot, imagining the flying things.
    ''You can name them,'' offered the man, grinning at her excitement. ''You're better at that than I am.''
    When they finished eating, he asked, ''Did you find anything new by the river?''
    She smiled and shook her head, and the long waves of her hair moved gently to brush first one side of her face, then the other. She swept her hair back over her bare shoulders and said, ''I didn't go to the river. I went up the mountain.''
    ''To the top?''
    ''To the very top.''
    He had been reclining on an elbow. At her news, he sat up and reached out to her in a quick gesture, not of anger but of concern. ''You know the law. At the top of the mountain... you should never go there. Not alone, certainly.''
    She rose lightly to her feet and tugged at his hand. ''Come up with me, then, and see what I have to show you.''
    ''The mountaintop is not a good place. Not even when we're together.''
    ''There's no danger. I know there isn't.''
    He still did not move. ''The light...'' he said uncertainly.
    ''The light will be with us for a long time. Come.'' She tugged again, and he reluctantly arose and followed her up the gentle slope.

      They reached the clearing on the mountaintop in a short time. He stopped, but she walked on, into the center of the clearing, where the bright bush stood alone, and picked two of the thumb-sized golden fruits. He cried out and rushed forward as she placed one in her mouth and bit down, but he was too late to stop her.
    ''Why did you do this? Remember the warning -- if we eat this fruit, we die!'' he said.
    ''I've already eaten it before this, and I'm not dead. Try it,'' she said, extending the golden fruit to him.
    ''No. I can't.''
    ''We were told, 'Eat this fruit and you die.' I've eaten it, and yet I live. Try it. Please.''
    ''And if we die?''
    ''At least we die together. Would you rather live on here without me?''
    That was a thought he could not bear. Without a word, he took the fruit from her fingers and placed it in his mouth. It burst at the pressure of his tongue, and rich sweet juice flooded his mouth with a savor unlike anything he had ever tasted before. He gave a little involuntary moan of delight at the sensation, and without thinking, reached out to pluck one, two, then a handful more of the golden fruit, and the woman beside him laughed and did the same.
    He turned to her, and another new sensation swept through him at the sight of her. He was not sure how long they had been together, but since that first drowsy afternoon when he awoke and found her beside him, her head nestled in the crook of his outflung arm, he had never looked on her with the feeling he now felt. The glow of her smooth skin, the soft curves of her shoulders and breasts, the round smoothness of her belly, the long gentle line of her thighs were as new sights to him, and the look in her eyes drew him closer. He placed his hands on her shoulders and pulled her to him.
    ''You are the most beautiful of all things living. I never saw this before, but I see it now.''
    They sank down on a soft bed of grass and explored together the wonder of their newly discovered bodies. They found a shared joy they had not dreamed of before, and they blessed the golden fruit that had awakened their sleeping senses.

      Together, in the early twilight, they walked down the mountainside to their shelter. Her arm was around his waist, while he encircled her shoulder with his arm and drew her head against him. They walked in silence, slowly.
    At the foot of the mountain they stopped. A light flickered and flared bright under the darkening sky and came to rest before them. He stepped forward in a protective stance as the light dimmed and took the form of one of the fearsome creatures that they understood to be guardians of the place.
    ''What do you want here?'' the man said.
    The guardian's voice was like the rolling of great boulders down the mountainside. The rush of air from its pinions swept the fallen leaves past the man and blew the hair back from his face.
    ''You have broken the law,'' the guardian said.
    The man was afraid. He wanted to fall back before that awesome figure. But he thought of the woman, and the punishment that might befall them, and anger rose in him stronger than the fear.
    ''What we have done is not your concern. Get out of our way,'' he said.
    ''Do you defy me?'' the guardian roared, lowering a hand to the sword at its side.
    ''It is you who defy me, by intruding on the place that was given to me. Leave us,'' the man ordered, taking a step forward.
    The guardian-creature drew its sword. The man stooped, lifted a heavy stone from the ground, and hurled it with all his strength. It struck the guardian full in the chest, staggering it. The sword whirled free, glinting in the dying light. The woman sprang nimbly to snatch up the fallen blade.
    ''Now leave,'' the man said, picking up another large stone. ''And never intrude on us again,'' added the woman.
    The guardian hesitated, and seemed about to speak, but the man stepped towards the creature and the woman brandished the sword, and the guardian faded away. The woman came to his side and put her arm around him. ''You were brave,'' she said.
    ''Until now, I feared them.''
    ''But no more.''
    ''No, no more.'' He looked down at her, bemused. ''Before I even raised my hand against the creature, I knew it was already beaten.''
    ''Do I make you so strong?'' asked the woman.
    ''You've shown me why I must be strong.''
    He took the sword from her. Hand in hand, more watchful now, they descended the remainder of the way.

      As they reached their shelter, the skies darkened. A wind rose, and its first faint whisper grew in an instant to a roar. Sudden drops of rain struck like flung pellets against their naked flesh. A peal of thunder shook the ground under their feet, and in a flash of lighting that seared the trees around them, their Creator appeared, His blazing face drawn into lines of wrath.
    ''What have you done?'' He said in a voice that overbore the thunder.
    The man stood fast before Him, the sword in his hand. ''I drove out an intruder,'' he said.
    ''You have done more than that!''
    ''Accuse me, then.''
    Thunder roared all around, and lightning lanced the ground at his very feet, but the man stood firm. At last came the accusation. ''You have eaten the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil. This was forbidden you, and yet you did it. Now you face My punishment.''
    ''Why should I be punished?'' asked the man.
    ''Do you deny eating the golden fruit?'' the voice of the Creator thundered.
    ''I deny doing wrong. You gave me this place, and told me I was master here. Why should anything be forbidden to me where I am master?''
    ''Do you feel no guilt? No shame?''
    ''I do not!'' the man said, and took a step forward. ''I will enjoy the fruits of my own garden as I choose. Send guardians to threaten me, and I'll treat them as I treated the first one.''
    ''Would you attack Me, then?''
    The man let the sword fall from his hand. ''No, not You. Never You, Who made me. I only defend what You gave me for my own.''
    The Creator raised His hand and pointed at the man, who steeled himself for a blast that did not come. Instead, in a solemn voice, like retreating thunder, the Creator said, ''You have broken My law and struck down My servant, and you show no remorse. Will you kneel before Me and beg forgiveness?''
    ''No. I have done no wrong.''
    ''I can destroy you,'' said the Creator. ''Perhaps it is better that I should destroy you.''
    ''Then destroy me, and make a new creature that will crawl for You,'' the man said, standing as tall as he could.
    ''And make a new companion for the new creature,'' said the woman, ''because I will be destroyed with him.'' She came to the man's side and placed her hand tight in his.
    Then the wind suddenly fell, and the storm hushed, and for a long moment all was still as side by side, the man and the woman awaited their annihilation.

      ''At last!'' the Creator laughed into the silence. ''At long last!'' He laughed again, and the darkness lifted. A joyous light shone forth from His countenance and illumined all around the man and woman and embraced them. ''Over and over, on worlds beyond numbering, I have created you. On every world I put you to a test. And of all who take the test, none has yet had the courage to accept the consequences. Eat the fruit, and you can become as I. They could not bear this. When I faced them, they crawled before Me, and cringed, and whimpered for mercy. I demanded guilt and shame, and they gave it to Me, and they live in thrall to it forever. But you gave Me your courage.''
    He stepped closer, and held out His arms. They came to Him, and He enfolded them in light and pressed them to Him. ''On a million million worlds I have slaves and worshippers,'' He said softly. ''But here, at last, I have My children.''

  *    *    *
  ©1981 by John Morressey
Transcribed by Rob McGee from 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories; Asimov, Carr, Greenburg (editors); ISBN: 0-385-18165-5

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posted by Throbert | 12/09/2008 09:18:00 PM |
Thanks for sharing this, Throbert. I enjoyed reading it and it certainly gives food for thought.
That story reminded me of this one:

The Dream

by Joe Dees

Dreams are paradoxical. Are they are are they not reality? They're not the same reality we experience during conscious self-awareness, of course; however, they do occupy real intervals in our lived existence, and what transpires in our dreams may fundamentally change our views of both ourselves and of our real situations.

I write here of a dream which I had at the age of fourteen. Up until then I had been a practicing Christian without any moral scruples about such a profession. True, the existence of God was not an immutable fact burned into my brain, but I could easily worship a hypothetical God. If He did exist, I had no doubt that He must be infinitely good, wise, powerful, beautiful and just, and I worshipped gladly. If, on the other hand, He didn't exist, it was anything but a social disadvantage in the Deep South to publicly pretend and conduct myself as if He did. Many more Christians take this point of view, I would wager, than would freely admit it. However, after my dream, I could no longer do this. My dream could not be literally true, but the truth within it could not be denied. The meaning of my dream awakened me from a sound and secure slumber, and once I had opened my eyes and seen, I could not close them again.

In my dream it was Judgment Day in Heaven. The Lord God was dispensing Holy Justice, and each person who appeared before Him was, according to their faith and good conduct, either labeled a sheep or a goat. The sheep, assembled on His right hand, would be rewarded with unending Rapture and would attend Him always. The goats, gathered on His left hand, would be consigned to eternal Damnation, and would be separated from His august Presence forever. I was next in line.

"Joe Ervie Dees," He read from His Book of Accounting, "Thy Judgment is next. Come before Me." I winced. My middle name has always embarrassed me, and here He was reading it aloud for all the Heavenly Hosts to hear.

"I am here, Father," I answered, walking forward and bowing before Him. He appeared as all children imagine Him to appear, an old man with flowing white robes and hair, the latter surmounted by a glowing halo, and seated upon a golden throne. He peered at me for a few celestial moments, then Smiled. "Grace is with you, Mr. Dees. Both your private conscience and your public example have been exceedingly righteous. You may join the sheep."

I did not move. I hesitated, then, almost inaudibly, I spoke.


He seemed perturbed by my unwarranted intrusion, and not just a little displeased at the delay. However, with a superhuman effort of patience, He asked, "What is it, My son?" in clipped tones.

"Father," I blurted out, "I want to go with the goats." There; I'd said it!

One majestic eyebrow lowered menacingly, but the other arched in surprise. I had aroused both His ire and His interest. He inclined His head towards me, ceding me the floor, and clasped His hands beneath it. "Why, My son?" He inquired.

I was emboldened. If He became angry and sent me away, it would be what I had requested and desired. If, on the other hand, He refused to grant my request, I would be no worse off than I was already. So I told Him.

"Before I was born I had lived a perfect eternity by Your side, Lord. Then You sent me to Earth. Pain, sadness and the presence of evil were my lot, and You took away my one possible consolation, my memory of You. I spent a lifetime in Hell, Lord. We ALL did, and NONE of us had done the slightest thing to deserve it. I could forgive You for THAT blatant injustice, but not for the pure and utter blasphemy of this Judgment Day."

His face was reddening, His teeth were bared, and the cords stood out on His neck. One blood vessel throbbed in His left temple. He raised a mighty hand to silence me, but I demanded, "Let me finish! His hand gestured as He nodded His Holy acquiescence and once again extended me the floor.

"Now I find that some of us shall have that Hell extended forever. You put us in a no-win situation, Lord. We all lost by being born into the world and separated from You; some of us simply lose more than others. This is not justice, but cruel and brutal hypocrisy!"

"Sweat beaded His mighty brow. He trembled with rage, and began, "Why you little --"

"And the last straw, Lord, is the existence of that damned Book," I overrode Him. "The souls to be blessed and those to be damned were already decided before we were abandoned, there was nothing we could do to change this, and we didn't even know who would be saved and who would be condemned! That, Lord, is nothing short of sick twisted sadism and pure and ultimate evil!"

He gritted His teeth, but stared at the cloudbank beneath me, and made no further attempt to interrupt.

"To relieve Your own boredom, You sent us who loved You to suffer through a Russian roulette game in boiling oil, with You knowing which chambers the bullets were in! For this I loathe You, You disgust and repel me, the very sight of You sickens me. Hell is Your Presence, Lord. That is why I wish to leave it."

He was not angry any more. He looked drained. Humbly, He raised His eyes to my face. His was still red, from embarrassment, I supposed.

"Very well, Mr. Dees, "He mumbled quietly, ""your request is granted. You may go to Heaven -- with the goats."

It was only then that I noticed His horns.

I awoke in the middle of the night in a pool of cold sweat with tears in my eyes, and could not go to sleep again. I squirmed and wrestled, but I could not find a logical fault with which to reconcile myself. I might be able to worship a hypothetical God, if He were good. However, I could not for the life of me bring myself to adore a deity whose very goodness was dubious at best. I still conduct myself ethically, as a gesture of care and affection for those with whom I share this vale of tears. I cannot, however, prostrate myself before One who could be so evil and cruel. After all, why should I play His game if trying can't win?
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throbert says:
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