He lived in a large park-like place, and took care of the animals and plants there. A woman lived with him, and helped him—or maybe he helped her; they didn’t stop to consider which it might be. When he was with her, he was of the opinion that his side hurt less than usual, although most of the time he never thought that he was feeling pain. They were quite comfortable with each other: he called her “woman,” and she called him “man,” in the language they shared.
The park was a very nice place, with pleasant and varied weather and wondrous vistas and an empty place in the middle that was good for dancing in. It was a normal clearing, for the most part, but there was a wide spreading tree there with a very sweet scent and good fruit that soothed upset stomachs and other bad feelings. They thought it was the most beautiful tree they had ever seen. They both liked beautiful things, and visited it every day. They brought colored rocks to the clearing from the rivers, and made little piles. Sometimes he or she would step on a sharp bit of rock and have to stop. Then she would sit down and be melancholy, as was her way. And he would become angry with the rock and throw it as far as he could into the brush, as was his way. But they always went to one part of the park or another for more rocks, because the smooth river-stones and the rough hill-stones were beautiful.
To the west there was a broad plain, and sometimes one or both would go there and take care of the animals and plants of the plain for a while. The man would occasionally bring back some of the stones from there as well, blue like the sky or glittering like the sun, or a wounded animal he had found. They would feed it fruit from the beautiful tree, and wash it in the nearest river, and nurse it back to health.
One of his pastimes, other than finding pretty things or animals to care for, was making up names for the animals. He and she had found that other living things had personalities just like people, even though they couldn’t talk. Sometimes the two would fight over the best name for some bird or fish or insect, and he became angry and had to go to the river and throw rocks until the upset faded, because their arguments always seemed to get bigger than the issue that had started it.
One day he was resting under a tree, and caught a little mammal of some sort just as it emerged from its burrow under the tree’s roots. He called to her, and went to meet her carrying the animal, which was a soft brown and had white and black stripes down its back and tail.
She came to him, and they met in the clearing. He was just about to show her the new thing when, in its play, it scratched his hand. This hurt badly. He began bleeding, and having been careful to that point he was very startled. In surprise and anger, he threw the animal from his hand as hard as he could, and it hit the side of a tall hard tree at one end of the clearing and fell to the ground.
The woman went over to the animal and, picking it up, became very upset. She patted it and tried to give it some fruit from the beautiful tree, but of course it didn’t eat. She took it to the river; he came along behind with an unpleasant feeling building up inside. He didn’t know how to handle that any more than the animal’s scratch, but he could think of nothing to do but follow.
When they got to the river, she tried bathing blood from the creature’s fur, and making it drink, and then she stood and threw the limp dripping animal against the man’s face, crying in frustration. He flailed in disgust and shock, then stepped forward half-blindly, and shoved her as hard as he could. She went over backwards into the water with an odd sharp noise that was partially splash and partially like that of a rock falling onto other rocks.
Making great heaving inarticulate noises, he waded forward, reaching out, but she went away downstream without looking at him, swimming in an unnatural motionless way he had never seen before. He watched and called and ran along the bank for miles.
It was the breezy time of day when the Presence came to the man, who was curled up under a twisted little tree in a stony place. The man’s side was hurting him very badly now. He was full of confusion and doubt and other emotions he didn’t have the capacity to understand, and became fearful as well when he heard the sound made by the Presence approaching.
What have you done.
“I don’t know,” said the man. “I don’t know what happened.”
You do not know good and evil, so that is to be expected. What will you do now.
The man shook his head. He did not know, and he did not know how to know, and he did not know how to say this.
The man found himself deeply comforted now by the Presence, but his side was still hurting and he felt that it always would. Even if he never ate the fruit of the beautiful tree again, he could never die, and never forget, and there would always be something wrong.
The man got up. He walked a while in the company of the Presence, and then he was not.
Then the garden wasn’t any more either, nor the plains, nor the rivers, nor any of the living things in them. The stars and moons and planets were not, leaving behind only light and darkness moving in a great open expanse, from which the lands vanished into the waters. Then the waters closed around the expanse. Then there were not even light or darkness, only something greater than either but formless. And nothing else had ever been.
The Presence was different now, without anything else there.
It was good, but not good enough. I have come to regret that image. Such a path is not worth following.
The Host seethed like an ocean, awaiting direction.
Let us make it again, directed the Presence. With a second tree, this time. Let us create something that can try to make itself whole. It is a difficult task, but I believe that that will be good.
For the most part, it was.