From You Shall Arise
by Dwight O. Krauss
“And just what are you doing here?”
Serpent raised a head from the dust: an unflickering eye, a flickering tongue. “Adam,” he said, “good to see you.”
“Good to see...” The man stared down at Serpent, incredulous. He hefted a tree limb he’d fashioned into a club. “You won’t think so, in about two seconds.”
“Wait, wait wait.” The woman dashed over and placed stopping hands on Adam’s gripped ones. “Don’t be so quick.”
“Ach!” He threw her off, pitching the club in one direction and stalking away. “You’re taking his side. There’s a surprise.”
“Eve,” Serpent said, and his head danced and the tongue quivered, tasting her in the air.
“What do you want?” She spoke softly and moved the same way, the motion a tremor along Serpent’s tongue.
He turned himself sideways, chasing it. “I want,” he said, “just to see.”
“How you are.”
“What?” Adam spluttered. “What! To see how we are? That’s what you want?”
“Yess.” And he caught himself. Serpent hated the sibilance.
“Well, take a great big snakey look around here, Serpent old boy. Why don’t you tell me how we’re doing?” Adam stood on a rise and made big gestures behind him.
Serpent looked. The trees were stunted, and the sand, the grating, hurtful sand, stretched away, broken here and there by stunts and shrubs and patches. A mastodon family plowed along a poisoned river, the bull glaring murder at Adam.
“Not so good,” Serpent admitted.
“Well, gee.” Adam threw up his hands. “Wonder how that happened?”
“Adam!” Eve spoke sharp from the bottom of the rise. The sun was up and it glowed her and Serpent sought a taste more but the wind was wrong. She was staring at Adam, who stared back, then stalked over the ridge and out of sight. She turned to Serpent: “Why are you really here?”
He waved in the sun, exposing himself to the light, the precious warming light. “I’ve said.”
“No.” She shook her head. “That’s not true. You’ve always got something else going.”
“It is true.”
“Really?” Her eyes flamed and her mouth set. And there, passion and life, and Serpent rose and flicked a questing tongue. Please, be there. “Really? What took you so long, then?”
Serpent swayed and looked back, tracing his track across the wasteland, “It’s hard,” he said.
“Oh, I see.” She crossed her arms; and the heat of her: God (do not think that word), so powerful he would drink it. “Take a little trip, see the sights, drop by some old friends. Yeah, that’s hard.”
His head drooped. “It’s hard to move.”
She stared at him a moment, cocking her head, so lovely, “Oh,” she said, comprehending. “The belly thing.”
“Yess.” And he cut himself off. “The belly thing.”
She nodded, and there was compassion in her eyes, and he reared to full height and swayed, sorting out the breeze and the motions in the distance, the sluggish waters countered by the sluggish mastodons and the dragons underneath, the rage of Adam souring the air and the heat and dust and yes, there, the sweetness of her compassion. “Oh,” he said, almost weeping.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly.
He did weep.
She moved then, a hesitant step towards him and he rolled his head and body down, supplicant, inviting, because the closer she was, the thicker her essence, the more complete her taste, and he became dizzy thinking of it. Please, closer.
Startled, she stumbled; and he moved, swinging his long body in the air and closing the distance. A few feet away now, and he felt the coiling, the loosing of something ancient, and he bared his mouth to taste...
Wham! He was hurtling through the air, end over end, the searing pain in his head more from what he’d just lost than the blow from the club.
“Adam!” she shrieked as Serpent landed hard, coiled and lashing. “What are you doing?”
“What are you doing?” Adam roared back. “Did you see what that... thing was about to do?”
“Yeah, Mom!” Another voice. “It was going to bite you!”
Mom? Serpent gathered himself and stared. Adam had Eve by the arm, shaking her; and Serpent would have attacked, but he was too astonished. Two other Adams were standing beside Adam, and behind them, on the rise looking down at Serpent, were a whole bunch more Adams. And Eves.
“What is thiss?” he asked.
“What?” Eve pulled her arm free and looked at Serpent, puzzled, then followed his gaze. “Oh, my children.”
“These are my oldest, Cain and Abel.” She pointed out the two Adams standing nearest and staring at Serpent suspiciously. “And those up there,” she made a wide gesture, “are Enoch and Adah and Jabal and Jubal and Naamah...” and she went down the list from the full-sized Adams and Eves to the half-sized and smaller.
“This is impossible,” Serpent said.
“Well, obviously, it isn’t,” said Abel, and he smiled. He had his mother’s gentleness, Serpent could see.
“But this is all different.” Serpent was still bewildered.
“Really? You think?” Adam threw out exasperated hands. “Nothing gets by you, does it?”
Serpent looked at him with a heaving chest and a fierce glare. He warned with a flick of his tongue. “I am only saying this is different. It was nothing like I thought.”
“And what did you think, huh? Maybe we’d get, what, a stern talking-to? Have a good laugh with Jehovah afterwards, ha ha, that apple thing, what a screw-up, no hard feelings, okay?” Adam shook his head in disgust. “Sweat of the face, cursed is the ground, what did you think that meant?”
“I didn’t anticipate...”
“Oh no, course not,” said Adam dismissively. “You didn’t anticipate. Had your little jolly with wifey here.” He made a disgusted face at Eve. “Gave your buddy Lucifer a bit of leverage, what’s the harm, hey? Well, let me tell you, snake face, things are different, all right.” And he swung the club, menacingly. “Really, really different.”
Serpent kept a wary eye on the man while turning to Eve. “I did not understand then, but now,” he tilted his head back and in the voice of the wind and the dark and the earthquake, repeated the exact words: “With pain you will give birth to children.”
Serpent blinked. The Adams and Eves stood quietly, regarding him. The wind blew from the miasmic river and there was a bestial thrashing there, enmity; and the wind turned harsh and threw sand at him. Eve had tears in her eyes.
“Children,” he repeated, filled with wonder. “You are nations.” Serpent shook his head in amazement. “You are forever.”
“Only Jehovah is forever,” the one named Enoch called down.
“No, no more.” Serpent swayed with the enormity of it. “You are striders on the earth, and nothing will be hidden or denied you. You will grow more than the sands, and you will rule this world and cast your eyes to heaven.
“And Jehovah...” He hesitated, fearing the sudden reprisal. None came. “Jehovah will fear you, and you will diminish Him and unlock His secrets, and drive Him to far corners...”
“That’s ENOUGH!” Adam roared, flourishing the club, death in it, death, the severing from the world.
And Serpent coiled back, defensive. He’d forgotten how very close Jehovah and Adam had been.
“Want me to take care of this, Father?” Cain stepped forward, his brow stamped with Adam’s violence. He slapped a club into his palm and looked at Serpent, a menacing smile on his face. “After all, aren’t we supposed to crush his head?”
“And I will bruise your heel,” hissed Serpent in warning, and he bared his fangs and let the liquid drip one or two times. Cain frowned, backing off, concerned. Serpent couldn’t help but grin.
“Be off,” Adam said.
Serpent swayed and ate the wind, seeking Eve among all the confusion. She had faded back to Adam; she always did, and they were entwined now and he could not separate them. He could try, but he had lost her.
He danced, vainly; but it was always worth the effort. The Adams and the Eves were in line with their parents in front, and they watched. He swore he saw a tear in the corner of Eve’s eye, but that could have been wishful thinking.
“You,” he called, “when you have dominion, when you are empires and tribes, kingdoms and countries, saints and murderers, one of you, somewhere, at some time, take a moment and remember. Remember how it started.
“Remember,” and he swayed in sorrow, “that you were loved. Wanted.” He dropped to the dust and the pain of it, and he moved, coiling serpent-wise toward the south. “Remember,” he whispered, “and be a little thankful.”
Copyright © 2009 by Dwight O. Krauss