In the Womb of Good and Evil
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
--Book of Genesis 1:26 – 3:24
Two cloaked men walked into the dark forest. One of them held a red rope in his right hand, and the other held a metallic staff shaped like the head of a serpent. As they walked, the wind raged across their hoods and shielded their faces against any wandering eye in the forest. They were of the same height and size, except one's legs seemed longer than the other, and thus he took slower smaller strides. The man with the red rope walked on the right. He kept his head down, counting paces as he moved gracefully into the darkness. The man with the staff, who walked on the left, stared forward with his glowing eyes. There were both left handing, and they appeared to be very much like two dark spirits, floating alongside each other, and wisped by the rough breeze that sent their cloaks flapping madly to their sides.
The men did not speak to each other until they reached the magnificently large tree. The man on the right has never seen such a tree, and thus he marveled at its beauty and size. Its seemed to have been split with a large invisible axe straight down the middle, for it had largest limbs opened up like a malicious embrace to those who stood before it. Its branches resembled the two men's hands, which were long, thin, and bony. Yet the tree seemed calm, and did not frighten the man with the red rope, and so he stood there, grimly returning it's welcome. But the man on the left had seen such a tree—in fact, he had been close enough to smell its skin, and knew upon a glance what its seductive limbs were capable of doing. And so he kept his distance, masking his recognition with a smile to his companion.
"So what now?" The man on the right asked.
"We wait," replied the man with the serpent. "The night is young and we have time to waste."
"To kill." The man with the red rope shot his cloaked friend an irritated glance. Then with long, measured steps, he approached the thick black trunk and sat against it. He leaned back and then leaned forward, shocked by the warmth of the charcoal bark. It was unusually comfortable to lean against for something that should have hardened by the harshness of the woods. "Strange."
The one who stood watched the face of the man who sat. He didn't seem worried. In fact, in his years in this occupation, he's never seen a man less worried."
"Have you considered the possibility that she might not love you?"
"No." The sitting man replied. He continued to pry at the bark of the tree trunk with sincere interest.
"Do not touch it like that," snapped the man with the staff.
"This creature is primeval," the man who sat said quietly and continued to finger the wooden scales with care. "More than centuries of years old."
"It's certainlyy seen the rise and fall of many empires," said the man with the staff. "Do you fancy it?"
The man who sat did not reply.
"What fascinating calm," said the man who stood. "Could it be that you don't understand whose life is being gambled?"
"Oh I understand," said the sitting man, never looking up from his examination of the chip in his hand. He turned it over and examined the crusty residue it left on his skin. "This is blood."
"She bleeds from time to time."
"Fascinating," remarks the man who sat with his rope in hand. "Why is that?"
"It's an omen that someone is about to die."
"Ah, poor fellow," the sitting man laughed.
"Perhaps you shouldn't be so amused."
"You expect to frighten me with this nonsense?"
"You should be frightened."
No words were exchanged for a very long time.
The two men sat, listening to the sound of the wind. Every few minutes a tree would moan like an old maid and the breeze would carry it around the woods. The man who sat heard this but did not say a word. The man who stood saw this, and did not do a thing. They waited wordlessly for many moments as though they had all an eternity to spare.
Suddenly the man with the red rope remembered there was something he had meant to ask his cloaked companion. He turned to him in the dead silence and asked, "Have you seen the old man?"
"The old man?" The man with the staff was confused for a moment, but he quickly come to realize who the subject of question was meant to be. "Ah yes…I've seen him. He was not my decision. I rarely meddle with the amiable passings."
"So you don't remember him?"
"But of course I do," replied the man with the serpent staff. "I remember them all, each and every one of them."
"Does she take after him?"
The man who stood paused and thought. "She hard-headed, like he was. But she's far more noteworthy in her beauty."
"Ah so you do have an eye for women."
"I am not without eyes."
"I would rather be without eyes than without ears," the sitting man remarked. "You, who are immune to the sound of emotion so you can perform your duty without a soul or conscience…I pity you."
The man with the staff shot the man with rope a weary look. "Pity?...Please, no need."
"Have you tried begging—d" The man who sat pointed to the sky, "—for the gift?"
"I would rather die."
At this the man who sat laughed outright for several minutes, much to the dismay of man who stood.
"Forgive me," smiled the man with the red rope. "I forget how amusing the truth can be."
"I am entirely immune to music, you know," the man with the serpent staff pointed dryly. "When they cross over, I can hear everything."
"Well that makes sense, doesn't it."
"Yes." The man with the serpent staff looked into the distance and listened for something that the man with the red rope could not hear. "There she is now."
The man with the red rope stood and looked around in the darkness. There was no one approaching. "I think you are mistaken."
"No, I can hear her now, Erik." The man with the serpent staff smiled grimly with his eyes closed. "Even her cries sound like music."
"What did you say?"
The large black tree began to tremble. The man with the red ropeleapt towards the man with the staff and seized him by the cloth around the neck of his cloak. His movement was remarkably fast for that of a human, and the man with the serpent staff was taken aback.
"How can you hear her?"
The man with the staff shrugged and bit back his smile which was conveniently concealed by his hood. The tree shook it's ever-out-reaching limbs and it swooned to the sordid drum of the man with the red rope's heart. It laughed with the eyes of the cloaked man who did not move, who's hand's metallic serpent staff had transformed into the body of a living, hissing snake.
"God may have raped me of sympathetic human emotions," sighed the serpent corpse who's grin widened with glee, "but He forgot to taketh away my lust and greed."
The man with the lasso's eyes widened in horror. His fingers grew numb and he fell back against the tree. He leaned his head back into her warm black womb and felt her roar with wicked laughter. It came straight from Death's eyes and out of the tree's crackling twigs. The man with lassoed the left arm of the tree and pulled it with all his might. He succeeded in breaking it's malevolent arm in half, and as he did so, the tree shook with delight. It was evil of the foulest kind.
"Our deal. . . " Erik gasped, "I was going to serve you if she did not love me."
"Oh but she does love you," laughed the tree as her coax-like wiles fed his anger. "She screamed your name all the while he took her…poor, little thing—she really couldn't tell the difference!"
Upon hearing this, the man dropped his lasso and closed his eyes. His heart began to lose it's will to pump blood through his veins, and he felt it shrink smaller and smaller into a tiny knot beneath his chest. He felt his organs, starting from his lungs and his kidneys, shutting themselves down. His knees began to lock and a numbing sensation overcame torso, his shoulders, and lastly his face. Only his mind was alive, for it told him he was about to die.
Death picked him up readily and swooped him over his shoulder in one effortless but efficient motion Erik felt the cold end of the iron staff tap against his thigh in an comforting fashion. The last thing he would remember was the raspy voice of his unnatural twin in his ear:
"Don't you worry, my dear…you will see her soon. I want you both. Oh yes! I do! And you may sing for me in a real kingdom of darkness for as long as I like."