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The Serpent’s Tale: A Fable  

Color was what The Traveler saw first as she plunged headlong through an ocean of ages. Lights and darks, primaries and chromatics, a cascade of blue that tapered down and off into mauve and raspberry jam, and then rose again into lake-water green. Towers of apple-core yellow, a strait of turquoise that was also a river of cotton candy pink. All were linked together by her mind’s eye to form vistas of shapes and objects with no shape at all; cathedrals of geometric splendor that totally filled her field of vision. The shapes and the colors were time, and time was her highway.

As her eyes were filled with the sights of time, so too were her ears filled with it’s sounds. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture reached a desperate crescendo and was quickly replaced by Martin Luther King Jr. opining on his dream. The crackle of flames from a fire in Salem Massachusetts, Emma Goldman speaking to a group of weary laborers, an abusive man proposing to his wife, and immediately the sound of a door slamming as she leaves him some years along. Cars, trains, zeppelins, horse drawn carriages, the sound of each barreling incongruously toward a destination they would never reach. This was the symphony of eternity and this was her radio.

None of these sights or sounds astounded or even surprised The Traveler. She had been down this highway many times in the past (in a manner of speaking) and it was with the blasé disinterest of a trucker who has driven the same route for thirty-five years that she spotted, in front of her and just to her left, a break in the kaleidoscopic dream: her temporal off-ramp. She adjusted her trajectory towards it, it was like moving through molasses, her muscles ached with the effort, but she succeeded. She passed through her exit and heard a familiar pop in her inner-ear. It was the sound of her essence being reconstructed instantaneously as she arrived at her target time.

She stood in the middle of a lush, green expanse that seemed to go on forever, did go on forever for all she knew. In her many trips to this place and time she had never gone very far beyond her point of arrival. There was no need. The person she had come to see was always in the same place after all. The Traveler walked the same mile she had walked so many times before, paying no attention to the myriad flora and fauna around her. There were flowers that stood as tall as trees and the trees themselves were immensity beyond description. Their leaves shone with star-like brilliance, and there were entire galaxies worth of leaves on a single branch. A school of fish swam in a small pond, a pterodactyl soaring through the sun-lit sky cried out in hunger and swooped down toward them with ravenous intent. The winged reptile snatched up its prey and carried it off to be devoured. Meanwhile, in the pond, the fish that had been carried off reappeared unharmed. On an impossibly green hilltop to the north, a pride of lions stood surveying their domain. A unicorn with a thick purple mane drank from a waterfall and started suddenly as the alien footfalls of The Traveler echoed through this paradise. And it was a paradise. It was the paradise. The paradise that would not be written about for ages to come.

After a period, The Traveler saw who she had come to see: a naked woman standing beneath a tree filled with the most gorgeous assortment of ripe, colorful fruit that would ever be seen.

“Hello, Eve” called The Traveler.

The woman beneath the tree looked up with surprise but not with fear. Fear was a foreign concept to her mind as The Traveler had come to understand. Eve did not even make an attempt to cover her nakedness, which was the one aspect of this that The Traveler always did find surprising. Never had the likes of fear or shame ever entered the purity of this woman’s cognition.

“Who are you?” Eve asked in an ancient, forgotten tongue that was immediately translated by The Traveler’s headset into English. It was the same question Eve always asked at this point in the conversation.

“I’m a friend.” The Traveler said, and the translation was reversed by her headset. “I’m here to right an egregious wrong.”

Eve puzzled over this last sentence, for right and wrong were as foreign to her as fear and shame. In this endless and madly beautiful place everything was right. At last, though, she looked into the eyes of The Traveler in a way that seemed to communicate some primordial understanding of what she had communicated. Eve said,”You’ve come to help me with something”.

“That’s right. Something is going to happen here that could be avoided and I’d like to help you avoid it,” The Traveler said and glanced up to the tree with gorgeous fruit. “He told you not to eat from this tree didn’t He.”

“Yes.”

“But you were about to.”

“Yes.” Once again, no shame.

“Why?”

At this question Eve paused and, for the first time in her brief and eternal existence, contemplated. The Traveler let her do this for as long as she needed and she needed quite a long while. The sounds of life, of pure life, untouched by the cold hands of death, continued around the two women. Finally, Eve responded.

“I don’t know why. I just wanted to try the fruit.”

This was the point in the conversation that The Traveler had been waiting for. It was the reason she had been sent here by The Union, twenty five years ago in her own time. The mission assigned to her had been to undo humanity’s curse by convincing Eve not to eat the fruit of this tree. She had trained for this mission for five years, learning and mastering the physical and mental hardships of time travel and memorizing the script of the conversation she would have with Eve. Everything had to be just so, or time would not be changed. She had succeeded. And because of her success, humankind had been saved from death. Upon her return, though, she had discovered that a far more terrible fate had befallen her species. They lived under the tyranny of the timeless thing that had created them, and under it’s subjugation they had grown to be empty husks. Blind, careless things that staggered through their world with no concern, with no anger. They did not gaze at the sky and wonder, they did not sing songs of lamentation or of celebration, they did not create, they did not think, they did not argue. They merely were. That was all.

Devastated by the change her actions had wrought in the world she called home, The Traveler tried again, this time altering the script slightly. The effect was the same. She had tried again, and again, and again, and again, so many times, so many different iterations of the same conversation with the same person. Until, finally, she realized what she must do.

The Traveler smiled, it was a warm and genuine smile, “Of course you wanted to try the fruit. It looks absolutely delicious. I’d love to try it myself but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to make sure that you do.”

Eve felt confused but also very happy and ready to experience whatever new things this stranger from beyond paradise might have in store for her. There was something vaguely sexual about the whole thing, but Eve had neither the language nor the experience to express this. Instead she said, “It’s wrong, though, isn’t it?”

“Very,” said The Traveler. “And that’s exactly why you’re going to do it. Transgress, Eve. It’s the only thing that makes you human. The refusal to obey the commands of an authority you could never consent to. To revolt. To rebel. These things are the agency of your soul: that divine spark put in you by your creator. He will be angry with you, Eve, and he will cast you out of this paradise. And the life you live beyond it’s walls will be marked with toil, with despair, but also with knowledge, with understanding, with creation. With the will to make something better.”

Eve could not comprehend all of the words that this stranger had said but her eyes showed an understanding that went beyond mere language. The spirit of The Traveler’s intent had reached her. With a single elegant motion, Eve lifted one lovely hand to the fruit above her and pulled down an especially ripe looking pomegranate. Then, giving one last wary and excited look at her new friend, she ate of the fruit. At the moment Eve’s teeth pierced the flesh of the pomegranate, the skies above paradise turned as black as night. The fauna fled in fear, the flora wilted in the cold. A thunderous voice echoed through the garden and down eternity. It spoke with the sound of a trillion stars exploding at once. Yaweh spoke with the sound of death.

Did thou eatest of the tree from which I commanded thee not to eat?

“Yes,” Eve’s voice trembled with fear. “I was instructed to?”

By whom were you instructed?

Eve turned to The Traveler and asked “Who are you that has instructed me?”

The Traveler looked at Eve one final time and said “A serpent.” With that, she pressed a small button on her exo-suit and was gone.

END

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