Before Adam made love to his wife on the outskirts of paradise, Eve fell upon the cursed dust of their banishment and coughed up seven seeds that rooted in the flesh of the earth from which humankind was doomed to coax mortal sustenance.
King Alexander watched on with pride as his son stood in the sparring ring amongst a defeated circle of his peers, brandishing his wooden practice sword with mighty arrogance. At only ten years old, everyone could see the boy was destined to be the world’s fiercest warrior.
For years, the King boasted of his son’s greatness at every opportunity.
Empires would crumble at his coming. Nations would kneel at his blade. Armies would beg at his feet.
His face would grace currencies. His name would inspire songs. His legacy would linger for eternity.
By his son’s sixteenth birthday, the King grew so smug and confident that he began to invite duels to their doorstep, promising fame and status to anyone who could defeat the undefeatable.
Word of the challenge reached the ears of a disgraced lord, who saw opportunity in the brawn and wits of his own scrappy son to pull their family out of exile.
The two young men faced one another under the glare of the sun, the expectations of the crowd, and the weight of their fathers’ egos.
Neither were able to claim victory.
Captain Davey preyed upon the greed of men with expert ease borne from his own familiarity with the vice. He was acutely aware that the more he had, the more he wanted.
More relics. More coins. More jewels.
So he dangled promises and payments that he sometimes did or did not deign to reward, and had his crew dancing on the deck at his bidding, scrambling for more pennies, more scraps. While they focused on the crumbs of his treasure, he hoarded a swelling trove of stolen antiquities, priceless artefacts, and illegal trinkets.
The Captain’s need to possess the world was all-consuming and drove his crew through the most treacherous of waters, the ugliest of storms, and the deadliest of skirmishes.
His impressive cache of riches grew infamous, stirring up covetous currents world-wide. Targeted attacks on his ship tripled, and Davey encouraged even more greed in the hearts of his crew to inspire their steadfast loyalty to his cause.
It was in the midst of one such siege that his first mate orchestrated a mutiny and ran a dagger through his back.
In the ache of loneliness, Patrick lost himself in lust. He had no preference for man or woman, willing or not. Breathing and bearably handsome were qualifications enough to fill the abyss of his abandoned existence.
He had given her everything—every thought of adoration, every kernel of affection, every penny of love. He worshipped her without hesitation. He considered nothing but her happiness. He toiled to provide her with every comfort.
And then one day, he came home to discover her splayed on top of another man, clawing at his chest and screaming with pleasure. They took their time finishing, and her following shrug of indifference at his devastation gouged gaping wounds into his naïve heart.
Bleeding with betrayal, he took to wandering from town to city, brothel to bedroom, hovel to manor, on a quest to staunch his misery and her memory with the skin of strangers.
The reprieve of release sustained him for many years, until one day his body rebelled with violent rashes, ugly blisters and burning fevers.
The last face he dreamt of was hers.
Yvonne ached with melancholy as she scrolled through the script of lives more fortunate than her own, camouflaging her envy with double taps of adoration.
She wished she were sailing the cerulean Mediterranean on a stately yacht with the man of her dreams. She wanted to be extraordinarily gifted with music or athletics or intelligence. She decried her misfortune at having a dull job, bland food, and lackluster life.
As far as her mediocre income allowed, she methodically tried to filter her existence into meaning by following the influencers, reading the blogs, and replicating the trends.
She felt the twisting grip of the green monster daily, and suspected that her newsfeed nourished her incessant malcontent, but her addiction to digital lives that outshone her own always overcame the urge to delete her accounts.
Years lost and youth departed, she remained excruciatingly average and alone.
She couldn’t remember who she was or how to be.
All she knew for certain was that she didn’t want to be Yvonne.
The working people starved while Clarissa’s curves exalted in the generosity of her gluttony. Her family was unreasonably well-off, and they rode their wealth with ease into the throes of the Great Depression.
As an only child, Clarissa wanted for nothing.
When crops turned to dust and stamps were traded for meager morsels, she gorged on meats and sweets, vanquishing juicy roasts and decadent cakes, inhaling doughy breads and buttery rolls, and devouring exotic fruits and luxurious wines.
Her appetite commanded her every thought of every minute of every day. She cared nothing for the needy, who withered at their walls while she swelled beyond health.
But as the unforgiving economic collapse wore on, her family neared the end of their rope, their money running dry and the unending supply of food dwindling along with it.
Unquenchable, she began to chew her own golden hair, to nibble her own manicured nails, to peel strips from her own stretched skin.
When the world recovered, Clarissa did not.
Father Jacob unleashed the whip of his wrath upon the witch, flogging the accused with stinging straps of judgement and condemnation. The hate in his heart was fueled by the congregation’s fear.
He fed on the venom spit forth from their pious mouths.
He harnessed the rage singing from their shaking fists.
The witch snarled from her seat in the box. Her vain protests shouted out in the vile tongues of deceit and devilry were drowned out by the mob’s roar.
With a resounding strike of the gavel, Father Jacob concluded the trial and gladly gave the wicked woman over to the reaching hands of the villagers. She struggled with Satan’s doomed strength against the fiery fate to which she was carried.
When the witch began to scream, her skin crackling and bubbling and popping, the crowd jeered and Father Jacob smiled.
In her last moments, the witch’s shrieks turned to cackles as she saw the sparks of her pyre carried by the wind to roost on the thatched village roofs.
Leo approached his responsibilities with the eagerness of a sloth. Homework was too hard. Chores were too much. He preferred to sleep late and lose himself in animated action worlds without leaving bed.
His parents’ pleading and raging and wailing fell on indifferent ears. They tried everything from a puppy whose wagging tail was stilled by neglect to a psychologist who seemed to make things worse at an exorbitant price.
Eventually Leo fell short of the requirements for a high school diploma, and his folks told him to get a job or get out. He promised them he would do the former but never got around to accomplishing either, content and unembarrassed to live without contributing, a fully-grown parasite sucking their retirement dreams dry.
His listless presence drove them to scream, cry and argue.
His father left, never to be heard from again.
His mother died, left to rot in her bed until the stench drove even Leo to take action.
He grew old as their house crumbled around him, beyond caring that he was already forgotten.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17, NIV)