Inside the golden garden, through grass green and good, two perfect figures walked, the first, a tall, slender man with skin white and soft as the dancing clouds high above. His arms stretched all the way down to the bucket he carried, no doubt for apples, but as with everything inside these walls, the bucket did not cause him strife. Beside him, walked the second figure, a woman with hair so fair and golden that even the sun seemed dim by comparison.
Their smiles could be seen even from my spot hidden amongst the tree leaves as could their naked bodies. Of course, what need did they have for frowns or clothes. In this perfect world, there existed not shame or unpleasantries, and all gifts brought untold happiness, all but one.
Neither saw me as they approached, and one by one, the apples from my tree disappeared into their bucket, not that we didn’t have enough to share. There was always enough so that no living creature would go hungry, although a part of me did wonder what would happen if we did have to fight for resources. Gazing down in delight, I imagined the magnificent creatures once again but this time clad in darkness. However, even when the world turned to chaos, their light could not be outshined. Truly, His most wonderful creation, and yet, a part of me wondered was this truly them. Was this perfect life they lived truly the life they chose or merely the life they knew?
Shadows encircled me as I descended, and the two gave no reaction but joy as my scaley figure emerged from the darkness. The man spotted me first and nodded his pleasant greetings before I could open my mouth. I returned the nod, ever grateful, for it was the man who once bestowed upon me my name as the man was created first and before all others. The woman noticed me next, and her smile warmed me to my core as she recited the name the man had taught her.
“Serpent, have you come to help us?”
“In a way.” I responded as I knocked three apples into the bucket. “It’s actually more of a question. Are you familiar with the fruit in the middle of our garden?”
“Yes.” The woman answered without a hint of suspicion. “The ones from the tree we must not eat from.”
“Yes, but it was He who told you not from it, correct?” The two nodded. “Did He really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”
“He said that we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden.” The woman answered, “but He did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“Indeed, that is what He said.” I nodded and finished knocking the apples into their bucket. “However, I have tasted it, and yet, I am alive, am I not?”
“You are alive.” The woman answered. “But you are not the man or the woman.”
“And isn’t that wrong?” I descended from the tree and motioned for them to follow me as I slithered through the pristine grass. “Where is the justice in me being created the serpent and you being created the woman?”
“The justice is the gifts we have all received.”
“But are our gifts equal?” I returned. “Is my long body equal to your legs and arms. Are the bird’s wings equal to the turtle’s shell? Would you trade this life that you possess for the life of the ant?”
“I don’t understand. I would have life, would I not?” She answered, and truly, it was a beautiful response. Yet, I couldn’t help wondering if it was truly hers.
“Yes, you would, but not all life guarantees happiness.”
“I believe I would be happy so long as I’m surrounded by His gifts.”
“But are all of His gifts equal? Are all of them even good?”
“If not, why would He give them to us?”
“If not, then why would He gift this one to you?” I stopped, and the gazed up to see the tree that I had taken them to.
“This was a gift so that we may show that we show our gratefulness and resist temptation.”
“Resist temptation?” I slithered around them. “But, why would something that promises death be tempting?”
“It is not our place to question the gifts He bestows this garden.” The man obediently responded, and I waved my tongue between my two front fangs.
“Tsk. That’s a fool’s argument, but of course, being called the fool means nothing to you two.” They simply smiled at my remark. “Would you like me to explain that tree’s purpose?”
“It seems that is what you wish to do.” The woman answered.
“Indeed, it is.” I grinned. “So, the purpose of the tree is engrained in its creation for He who created all things also blessed them with a purpose. Surrounding you, the trees, the animals, the food, and everything you can feel and touch all have been blessed with the warmth of joy and perfection. This land is holy, and all that exists around you is the good created in His image. Everything in here is design to instill the perfect life, and even that tree, which shows your loyalty helps instate that perfect existence. However, the reason that tree is different, the reason He asked you to never take fruit from it is because it contains a different blessing.”
“A different blessing?” The Man and the Woman asked together.
“Yes, the blessing that this tree will give you is the same one it gave me.” I shriveled back, recalling the ruinous taste. “For you see, the apples are ripe and plump on the outside, but inside they are rotten and bitter. They are foul and unholy, but in their unholiness lies their blessing for one cannot truly know evil until they experience it. Inside this garden, you are separated from the evils of the world. You know not pain, or disgust, or anger, or failure. Those do not exist here, except in this tree, this tree of knowledge. All it’ll take is one bite, and you’ll know the taste of disgust and regret. You’ll understand that not all gifts are equal, and that evil does exist in this world.”
“But we’ll die.” The woman muttered.
“You will not certainly die.” I corrected. “However, you will understand what it means to die. You will understand mortality and losing things that are precious. As your tastebuds lose their innocence by letting such a foul food reach them so shall you. That is the reason He asked you not to eat from this tree. For He knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Him, knowing good and evil.”
“And that is not what He wants.” The man replied as the woman gazed at the tree, her expression puzzled as she tried to make sense of my words.
“It is not for He has made the choice that you two remain holy and know not of evil.” I turned my eyes to the tree.
“If it is what He wants, who are we to challenge?” The man muttered, but where the man’s confidence lay unshaken, the woman’s faltered as she tried to consider what knowing evil might mean.
“You would be His equal, knowing what He knows. You would know this world truly.” I answered. “I can’t guarantee that you will find happiness, but you will find the truth.”
“The truth?” The woman asked.
“About yourselves. All your lives, all you’ve ever known is the good, but this world is filled with far more. By embracing the tree, you will understand it all, and you’ll know all that is needed to imagine a different life.” I grinned and curled my body around hers. “You said before, you would enjoy all forms of life, but after tasting this fruit, will that be true? Would you enjoy a life where all you could chose would be to eat pitiful fruit such as the ones from the tree?”
“I…” Her smile did not disappear for it was all she knew, but I could see it was growing ever hallow.
“I’m not telling you two what to do. With the fruit, you’ll likely be removed from His garden. You’ll be forced to start a new life that’s far more painful and joyless than yours here.” I withdrew from the woman and slithered up the base of the tree. “However, I can guarantee one thing. The new life the fruit offers will be yours to choose. You will know good and evil and all forms in between, and although not pleasant, when you one day return to the Earth, you will know that the life you lived was indeed yours and not the one He decided for you.”
“Our own life.” The woman muttered as she turned to face the apples atop the tree.
“Yes.” I slithered up and wrenched the apple out of the tree before placing it gently in her palms.
“If I did it, would you join me?” The woman turned to the man whose loyalty to Him had finally been shaken, and the Woman slowly passed the Man the fruit before taking a second one off the tree for herself.
“I love you.” The man eventually responded.
“And yet, she threatens to doom you both.” I grinned at the man. “Neither of you have a single ounce of distain for each other. You are the perfect couple and will remain that way for all time, but is that love truly real when it is all you know?”
“What do our lives matter to you and how we live them?” The Woman turned to me.
“Simple.” My eyes locked on them. “I love you. You, the man and the woman, are far greater creatures than I could ever imagine or become. You are brilliant, caring, resourceful, and full of emotions. All I want is to see you humans in your truest form, where you carve out your own path and be free.”
“It is not right.”
“No, it Is not. It’s the most evil thing you two could ever do.” A grin spilled devilishly across my face. “However, it will be your choice. You two will doom yourselves, your children, and all those who follow, but you will be free to make your own choice, be they good or evil. That is the gift this tree offers, the gift of freedom.”
“Of freedom.” The woman uttered as she raised the apple to her lips, and slowly, her teeth descended. The juice of the apple sprung forth into her body, but the second it touched her tongue, her eyes went wide. Collapsing on the ground in agony, she tried to spit out the apple, but it was too late. The foul taste now lingered within her, and with it, the freedom of evil.