Cain’s tattoo

Adam and Eve settled in a valley somewhere east of paradise and eventually had two sons: Cain, a farmer, and Abel, a shepherd.

Each son religiously offered part of their yield on an altar as a sacrifice, a gesture of faith in their God’s continued provision. Underneath a blistering sun, Cain would throw together an indiscriminate mix of berries and greens and scatter them upon the unwrought stone. Abel, on the other hand, would take from the firstborn of his flocks, carefully cut the choicest sections of meat from the bone, and burn them down to a charred powder.

Abel’s labor of love pleased God, so He blessed him with healthy flocks and herds. But Cain’s offering He ignored. In time, grubs and other pesky insects consumed the farmer’s produce.

God asked Cain in a dream, “If you offer your best, will you not be blessed?” Then everything went dark, and he saw a hideous serpent bearing fangs through a curled lip, hissing under his breath. Cain inched closer to seize the viper and snap its neck, but the unholy creature struck his ankle and bit clean through the sinew.

Cain let out a visceral shriek and awoke with a start.

The next day, he and Abel were walking together in the fields, when Cain, lagging a few steps behind, gripped his bronze sickle with both hands. Then he called to his brother, saying, “Abel.”

When Abel turned around, Cain swung the tool swiftly and lopped his brother’s head off.

God nightly visited Cain’s dreams after that, haunting him with the question, “What have you done with Abel?”

“When did I become my brother’s designated guardian?” Cain asked, writhing in a pool of cold sweat.

A thick shadow emerged from the ground where Abel’s carcass lay rotting, and his drying blood cast a spell on the fields. The stained soil no longer yielded fruit for the murderous farmer, and soon rumors about his treachery echoed in the valley, causing Cain to become a nomad with a price on his head.

Ravaged by malnutrition and paranoia, Cain eventually begged for God to rescue him from himself. God met him with tenderness and mercy.

“If anyone kills you,” He promised, “I will punish them with a multiple of seven.” God burned a mark into the outcast’s flesh to deter anyone from messing with him, and Cain settled in the land of Nod.

From his family tree came some of the earliest civilized people, including shepherds in made-made huts, musicians, and smiths.

God eventually blessed Adam and Eve with another son, Seth. From Seth’s family tree came godly men such as Enoch the Consecrated One.

Enoch walked with God, just as Adam and Eve had done in the beginning. Meditating on the stars in their fixed orbits, the recurring cycle of summer and winter, and of the trees withering and flourishing in their season, he remembered his ancestor’s prelapsarian state, seeing that nothing in nature transgressed the laws of God. So he walked the righteous path, creating order from the everyday chaos around him. One day, Enoch mysteriously vanished with God.

From Enoch’s tree came a man they called Noah.

Inspiration: Genesis 4

Dragon’s deception

The serpentine dragon, having condescended from another dimension, cradled its head on a bough of the Knowledge Tree one afternoon and reasoned with the queen. “You look hungry,” he garbled. “I heard you aren’t allowed to eat any of Eden’s delicious varieties. Is this a joke?”

Eve bristled at the unusual sound of a talking lizard. “We can eat anything except Knowledge.” She pointed to the tree from which both the forbidden fruit and the scaly dragon’s tail dangled. “We can’t even touch it, or we’ll die.”

The dragon choked on a half-chewed morsel. “Dear child, do I look dead to you?” he asked, mucous-caked eyes glinting in the sun. He dropped from his perch and crept closer. “Don’t you want to know good from evil, child? That’s what happens when you eat from Knowledge. You become distinguished and discretionary. Like a god.”

Eve regarded the fruit sagging from a lower limb, and the dragon detected in her gaze and in her blush that she was vexed with desire.

“Why should your God be the only one who knows good from evil?”

Adam appeared unexpectedly out of the brush, his brutish footfalls startling the beast. He took little notice of the reptile recoiling at his feet. Instead, his eyes were fixed on the sun-kissed fruit. “Like a god, you say?”

“Like your God. The Elohim lied to you, friends.” The dragon’s voice trailed off as he skulked away.

The woman plucked the fibrous orb, and its limb snapped back. No sooner had she and Adam bit into it that all sense of time ceased. A swelling melody penetrated their ears so thoroughly, they became intoxicated in bliss. Adam held himself stock still, enchanted by the hypnotic sound of blood pumping through his veins. Feeling her legs give way, Eve lowered herself and listened to the harmonies playing beneath the soil.

Then, all at once their rapture ended. Both shuttered, feeling suddenly vulnerable and exposed. A harsh wind swept through the clearing, and the sky rumbled ominously.

In haste, they sewed the leaves of a fig tree together and wrapped themselves with them, then scurried in opposite directions in search of protection.

God appeared for Vespers that evening, but Adam and Eve weren’t answering the temple door.

“Where are you?” He asked, peering over the fence into the orchard. “Adam?”

Adam responded from behind a mulberry bush, his voice shrill and weak. “I was naked and afraid, so I hid,” he explained, self-consciously.

“How’d you know you were naked unless you took fruit from the Knowledge Tree?”

Adam admitted his disobedience but quickly blamed his wife. “I was content with figs and pomegranates,” he said, breathlessly, “but this woman… your gift to me, I should say, she wanted to taste Knowledge.”

Eve appeared from behind the foliage of a willow, her face downcast. She too was visibly shaken. Speechless, she pointed an accusatory finger at the creature who happened to be slinking along the path.

God seized the dragon by its throat and cursed, “Eat dirt and die! From now on, you’ll slither on your belly, with misery your only company. Despised and isolated, you’ll strike at the heel, but in the end, your head will be crushed. That’s a promise!”

God turned to Eve and said, “Now that you’ve tasted the difference between good and evil, childbirth will be painful and dangerous. As far as your relationship with the man, you’ll want to please him, but he’ll dominate you. His desire will be for wealth and power.”

To Adam, He said, “You’ve cursed the soil, whose provisions weren’t enough. You’ll bleed, sweat, and cry for your bread, grasping for food, sex, and an endless string of things until you return to dust.”

God’s countenance then softened. He presented clothes made from animal hide. “You’ll need an upgrade from those fig leaves where you’re going,” He said, handing them the weatherproof leathers.

The first family had just experienced a most unfathomable blow. For their safety, God separated them from the Life Tree and dispatched a host of invisible armed guards around it. Had they consumed Life straight from the branch, they’d have lived in eternal misery. He escorted them to the east gate, onto a twisted path leading into darkness.

“Follow closely to the way,” God instructed. “The sun will rise again, and I will bring Life back to your offspring.”

The estranged pair left the comforts of the lush garden and traveled east along the rocky road they named Suffering, and the dragon slithered at their heel by the pale light of a fallen moon.

Inspiration: Genesis 3