From the Garden
by Margaret Devadason
THE FIRST DAY
After creation’s first surgery, Eve woke to the sound of THE ALMIGHTY’s voice. “It is good,” God boomed at Adam, “that you should have a helpmate.”
Adam slouched against a tree, one hand twitching numbly by his boneless and bloodied crotch. He had come up from slumber only to find his body a strange and foreign sculpture. He did not know if he would call anything about this good. He did not follow Eve’s curious gaze as she looked around the garden.
“What do you see?” he asked her, his throat dry and his voice cracking. “You may give it a name.” It was a small gesture. It was all he had to offer.
She took it seriously. A moment passed, and then another. She came up to him and put her hands on his jaw, angled his face so that he could not but look at her. Her skin was red as clay, but not at all like clay.
Her eyes raked over him, and he knew before she spoke that she would name the wrong thing. Not paradise, but--
“Pain,” Eve said, the first word to fall from her lips. Of course she started with an abstract noun. Of course she knew, even then.
“No,” Adam said, looking nervously at THE ALMIGHTY, who continued to hover by them in a cloud of radiant light. “This place. Where we are. You may name it.”
Eve smiled at him, sending chills over his skin. “Pain,” she said again.
He took her by the shoulders, his hands grasping too tightly. “Just the opposite, my love,” he said. “Let’s call it Eden. Delight.”
“Eden,” she repeated.
Feeling a little ignored, THE ALMIGHTY dissipated with a clap of thunder. Eve did not look away from Adam. Eve did not stop smiling.
“What does it mean to give something a name?” she asked.
“It is to know its nature,” Adam said.
Eve shook her head. “To name is to control,” she declared. “I will name myself.”
Adam loosened his grip on her arms, shaking his head. “I already—no. You already have a name,” he said hurriedly. “Woman. You are called woman, because you came from man.”
“My name is Eve,” she said as if he had not spoken, “because I am alive.”
He looked at her helplessly. “Eve,” he repeated. “Let me take you around.”
She did not wait for him, but began to walk.
“It is good to have you,” he said as he pulled himself up to stumble after her.
“Do you have me?” she asked. Her voice sounded absent, as if she were as distracted by the greenness of the garden as she should have been.
“You are flesh of my own flesh,” he said. “It is good.”
As they walked on, he stopped to name the things he saw. A small bird became a partridge. A red fruit became an apple. She did not stop, nor did she wait for him when he stopped, but she named things too: the bird in motion was flight. A loose scatter of yellow leaves was the fall.
They came across angels. Adam had already learned not to name them, these blazing beings with their many eyes and their many wings. Eve knew as well. She looked at them, and she did not speak when they were around, filling the air with clamorous song.
When the light grew red, Adam and Eve were alone. Eve looked at the sky, and then at Adam, and then back up and away from him. “Crepuscular,” she said as Adam reached out to hold her.
The sky grew dark and Adam grew still. His skin was warm.
Eve walked away, alone for the first time in her life. She spoke as she went, leaving no pause between thought and declaration, signified and sign. She named a tree conifer, a mushroom amanita. She heard a bird singing and spoke the first nocturne into being, and then she stopped walking. It was night, but she could see someone standing in her path, shining as fiercely as the day.
It was an angel, of course. It usually is.
“You aren’t mine to name,” Eve said. It was a fact.
“I am the morning star,” said the angel, voice a thousand golden bells. “Call me Lucifer.” The angel’s body was a little like Eve’s, with its gentle curves. But the angel’s body had wings cusping out at several points, and more eyes than Eve. Eve wondered what it would be like to see so much—to know so much.
“Lucifer,” Eve said, inclining her head. Her hair was short, the dark curls of it hanging close to her face. Lucifer’s hair was long. It shone like fire, and Eve’s fingers longed to touch it.
“You’re not at all like him,” Lucifer said, looking upon Eve. One pair of the angel’s eyes drifted over her restless hands.
“Of course not,” Eve answered. “I am my own being.”
“Does he know that?” asked the angel.
Eve smiled. “He will,” she said, and the angel believed her.
“Does HE know that?” the angel asked.
“THE ALMIGHTY?” Eve asked. “I’m sure he will too.” She paused, looking at Lucifer’s smiling face. “Why should Adam have a shared pronoun and I be alone?”
“It’s a bit early for gender politics,” Lucifer said, “but you aren’t alone.”
“Are you a woman too?” Eve asked, voice caustic over the imposed term.
“Close enough,” Lucifer said. Eve looked at the angel. She had not, at that point, been alive for very long. She hadn’t felt many things, and she knew it was early to judge which feelings were important. But this—this was something.
“Adam wouldn’t like that,” Eve said. “He thinks he’s alone. He wants me to think I’m alone too. He wants the fact that we’re both here to mean that we aren’t alone.”
“Like I said,” the angel said, “it’s a bit early for gender politics. But that sounds about right.”
“I don’t think I’m alone at all,” Eve said, “and I do not think I need be alone with him. But I don’t know where to go from there.”
“You could always leave,” said Lucifer.
“How?” asked Eve. Above them, the sky began to brighten.
“All in good time,” answered Lucifer before fading off into the light.
THE SECOND DAY
Eve walked back to Adam and looked down upon his soft, sleeping body. She looked at him and she pitied him, and as she pitied him a snake slid up in the grass. It was long and pale and gleamed like fire from certain angles. Even in those days, it had no legs.
“In this garden,” said the snake, “there is a fruit that you cannot name. You will know it for its namelessness. Once you have found it, you must taste of it. Then, and only then, you will be able to leave.”
“What difference will a fruit make?” asked Eve. She was still looking at Adam. His wingless back.
“It will make you know the truth,” said the snake, and Eve laughed as it slithered away.
Once he woke, Eve took Adam by the hand and led him through the garden. He followed her to the edge of the world he once thought his alone.
Eve stood and looked at him, and then she dove into the water. He watched her from the shore as she took on the current. Her arms were strong, and her lungs still full of the air THE ALMIGHTY had breathed into her. The snake swam at her heels.
The light was strange there. It rippled and bent, blurred the lines of her being. It didn’t matter, but she called it caustic anyway. There in the water, Eve named what she saw. Then she left. Adam stood to embrace her as she marched back on shore, but she had no time to spare him. The air ran rich from her lungs as she returned to the land, heavy with those many names.
THE THIRD DAY
When Adam woke, he was alone. Finding the experience abhorrent, he set out to wander. The pastime had served him well before Eve arrived and gave meaning to solitude. At first, he named what what he saw—some small, round berries were tomatoes, a creeping vine grape—but it wore on him. Freedom was no great gift.
He fell silent as he walked, and by chance he came across Eve. She was standing by a tree, holding something small and brown in her hands. Her thumbs split its skin to show green flesh, small black seeds spilling out from a white heart.
“Kiwi,” she said, nodding to the snake on the branch next to her. She was smiling, and it was like nothing Adam had seen before. Not the fruit—he had found it and named it gooseberry some time ago—but the glow of her, like the light had fallen over her shoulders and decided to stay there.
He wanted to go to her. To touch her arms, to breathe in the air she contained, to feel the blood running under her skin. Instead, he watched as she sucked juice off her own fingers, laughing with the snake. He turned and left.
THE FOURTH DAY
The second time Eve went swimming, Adam followed. Eve walked no slower than usual, but Adam could keep up on land if he kept his mouth shut. It felt strange, to move through the world so quickly, without stopping to see and know and name.
Though he had hoped not to, Adam hesitated when they reached the water’s edge. He knew Eve had survived submersion, but that was Eve. The new and improved model, who fulfilled her duties so ceaselessly that she must have won THE ALMIGHTY’s approval a dozen times over.
Adam stood by the water and thought these things while Eve launched herself in. By the time he had made up his mind to follow her, it was too late. He could not see Eve.
She kicked through the water, buoyant among the waves. The salt of it was warm over her mouth, and the creatures there teemed. She did not feel alone, as she gave out names. Still, her heart soared when she sank down to a coral bed and saw the angel that was still, impossibly, on fire.
“I have named every fruit on the land,” Eve said conversationally as she stroked her fingers along a ridge of coral. Staghorn, she called it, then continued: “I’m working on the sea now too.”
“All will come in good time,” said Lucifer.
“Oh, I know,” answered Eve, “but why not now?”
She smiled at the angel before returning to shore, naming the undertow fathomless as she went. Adam was waiting for her again when she came up, something small and brown in his hands. Wordless, he held it out to her.
She took it. She felt its weight in her palms - its feathers. She felt its heart beat. With her thumbs, she split it open and saw the bone and red meat inside. “Kiwi,” she said to Adam.
Hanging from a branch above, the snake laughed itself into corkscrew curls.
THE FIFTH DAY
Eve woke, skin baked warm by the sunlight. The snake was lying with her, heating its own cool blood. She lay there for a time, and then she got up.
The snake found itself a stone. It curled there and watched her as she named everything the light touched, words dripping golden from her lips. It watched her as she took to the ground, the quiet crevasses and shadows, and she named what she found there too.
Adam found them after a time, and looked upon Eve, and the snake. He had never given it a name, this slip of light trailing along on its belly, and Eve didn’t seem to care to. Thinking on that, Adam felt tired and wanted to lie in the grass too. He did not want to name the snake, but he wanted to want to.
When Adam went to sleep that night, Eve went out again. She named everything the moonlight touched, and then looked up to the sky. There were stars there, and angels in flight.
“It’s beautiful, Lucifer,” she said to the snake.
The snake startled. “How did you know?” it asked, the diamonds over its pale skin burning like eyes.
“You thought I wouldn’t?” she asked, and she held out her hand to the snake. There, beneath the vault of the heavens, it went up over her shoulders to nestle around her neck. “I have named every fruit the light touches,” she said, “and every fruit the light doesn’t touch. Are you trying to keep me here?”
“O, ye of little faith,” said the snake, body shaking with laughter at a joke that would take centuries to unfold. Eve couldn’t see it all yet, but she laughed too.
THE SIXTH DAY
Adam named the animals of the earth. The snake was not among them.
Eve looked for fruits and found none. Lucifer walked with her.
THE SEVENTH DAY
“So,” Eve said. “Fruit.”
“Fruit,” said Lucifer agreeably. Having named what she could, Eve did not walk the garden, but rested in the shade of a large apple tree with Lucifer. The angel’s flaming wings touched the young grass and the tree’s dry bark, but the fire did not spread, nor cause any kind of harm.
Adam rested too, apparently somewhere else.
“I have walked the whole of this creation,” said Eve, “and named what I found. What the light touched and did not touch, what was in the waters and on the land and above the land. I have named it all and made it my own. There is only one thing I have found that is not mine to name.”
“Oh?” said Lucifer.
“What was it you said?” Eve asked. “Once you have found it, you must taste of it?”
“Rings a bell,” answered Lucifer.
Eve put a hand to the soft fire at the angel’s shoulder and was not harmed. She chose a pair of eyes to look into and felt that she was not alone. Under vault of the heavens and the shade of the apple tree, Eve kissed the angel Lucifer.
THE ALMIGHTY, of course was not best pleased when HE found out, and when Adam heard of it, all he could do was obsess over that tree and those apples, the Eden he had lost and all the things he had failed to name. None of that mattered to Eve, who had tasted at last of the fruit, who knew the truth she had been waiting for as long as she had lived and moved and had breath.
She was not cursed with pain, because pain was in the garden from the beginning. She was not cast out of the garden, because her life was hers alone. But the gates were open, and so Eve left of her own accord, Adam trailing behind her.
Of her own will, with as little shame as the day she named herself, Eve set out, following the light of the morning star.
Margaret Devadason is Associate Editor of Canopy Online, a literary magazine with a focus on works of intercultural sharing and translation. The winner of the poetry category of the 2018 NTU Creative Writing Competition, Margaret is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Multilingual Studies with a minor in Creative Writing at Nanyang Technological University.