The Other Side of Eden
The sun blazed through the foggy mist,
turning the afternoon vapor into a hot bath of steam. Enowsh
bent over his stone pick and thrust it into the black soil. A
stream of sweat trickled down his cheek and ran through the
hairs of his long white beard. His back ached from the
constant labor. He straightened and stared at the growth of
weeds that sprang up overnight and threatened to choke his
tender plants. If they died so would he. He took a gulp of air
but it did nothing to calm the raging inside. Anger churned
against his ribs like the mighty dragon in the midst of the
deep. Would the work never end? He bent his body forward.
The familiar cry aggravated Enowsh. He
turned his back toward the group of people that paused along
"Come, join in our dance." A tall man
stood at the edge of the garden and flexed a supple willow
branch before letting it lash out at a sunning cat. The cat
screeched and darted into the tall grass.
"Be gone with you, Bashan. I have no part
in such foolishness." Enowsh struck the dirt with his pick and
tore through a clump of weeds. A cloud of insects rose around
"Enowsh knows only to work," a woman
whined. "Leave him be. If he comes he'll only scare the
"Enowsh takes good care of his property,
but he will sell it to me. Come with us, Enowsh. We will not
hurt you. A little rest will do you good at your age."
Enowsh picked up a stone and hurled it at
the other man.
The man's laughter resonated through the
fog. "We willl be back, Enowsh." He tucked his mistress in his
arm and hurried her down the path.
Vibrant music carried on the air. Enowsh
drowned out the sound of their revelry with his own thoughts.
He was tired of being the brunt of their jokes, of watching
the children cower from his presence scared by the legends
whispered in their ears. Enowsh wiped his brow. His memories
of the days when he sat in the city gate ruling as their
beloved elder mocked him. They no longer brought him their
gifts of wine and fruit. Now, he only possessed this small bit
of ground and a shack near the edge of the forest, both of
which he must fight to keep.
Enowsh slammed his pick into the ground
and belted a sound from the depths of his loins. His groan
reverberated across the landscape and testified to the madness
that claimed him. He cursed the day of his creation and his
Maker. Almost of their own accord, his eyes sought the glimmer
in the west. Bursts of rays, from a distant spray of light,
spread across the horizon and darted into the clouds, like
streams of fire which flashed from yellow to orange to blue.
The townsfolk called it the Mystic Wonder. Only Enowsh knew
the glory it possessed. In a fit of rage, he shook his fist at
Night settled like a heavy blanket over
the country. Enowsh slept alone in his thatch-roofed hut. The
din of the drunken city stirred his conscience and deepened
his misery. Through the edges of his sleep he heard the brush
of a serpent slither across the fibers above him. The sound
played with his senses and roused him out of his troubled
slumber. He bent his head toward the soft noise. It drew
closer. He slashed his arm at it in the darkness. "
Come and kill me, you coward. I'm Man. Are you afraid of me? Afraid I'll
rip off your head? You man slayer. You, who killed my wife
with your venom." A sob choked him.
"Listen." A drunken voice cried out from
the street, "Enowsh speaks to himself."
"Perhaps the old man has words of
wisdom," another scoffed.
Enowsh wrapped his robe around him and
stepped to the doorway. "Be gone. I'll not have you around."
"The old man threatens us. How dare he?"
Enowsh stood unafraid. His taut muscles
attested to his strength. The breeze played lightly across his
bronze skin. In the torchlight, a crowd gathered. He smelled
the stench of alcohol as it drifted on the air.
Bashan stepped forward. His tall body
towered above the others. "They say the old man murdered his
A murmur traveled through the crowd.
"We can't have a murderer amongst us."
"Go home and get drunk." Enowsh gripped
his stick. A snake's rattle buzzed above the hum of the mob. A
tingle crept up his spine. He watched the serpent glide from
beneath the eaves and he swung his stick at the shadowy
movement. The serpent slithered beyond reach.
Bile rose in Enowsh's throat and a
bitter taste coated his tongue. A shriek welled up in his
chest and shook the air. "Leave me alone!"
"Enowsh is mad." Bashan stepped closer.
"Come, let us put an end to Enowsh."
Sticks cracked together, mingling with
shouts of hatred. "Down with Enowsh. To the death." Stones
catapulted through the darkness.
A crack echoed in Enowsh's ears and a
ripple of sharp pain vibrated through his being. He stumbled
backwards into the black hut, hearing only the screams of the
people and the snake's rattle like the clacking of old bones,
his old bones. He fell to the floor. Fangs pierced the flesh
of his hand and his palm throbbed. "No." His voice cut through
the confusion. Men began to tear apart the entrance of his
home. The smell of smoke burned his nostrils and a tongue of
fire lapped across the roof. Enowsh heaved his body forward
and through a gap in the back wall. The tainted air rested
heavy against his skin. He gasped for breath. Oh, if only he
could pray. In vain, he searched for words but his spirit
shrunk within him. He crawled forward into the safety of the
vegetation. If they found him they would kill him.
From afar, like the sound of a mighty
storm, the Holy Wind gathered strength and swirled through the
treetops of the forest and over the long grasses of the plain.
Fear swept over Enowsh, he flattened himself against the
ground and steeled himself against the mighty gust. The
clattering of voices erupted in panic and quickly dissipated.
Enowsh propped himself up on his arm and
stared across the lush greenery of the valley below. His long
journey brought him here, to this rock ledge in the heart of
his ancient land. The prisms of light flashed closer, creating
a spectrum of colors off the morning haze. He stared toward
the south and his gaze rested on a grove of oak trees which
sheltered the burial cave of his wife. A sigh escaped him. The
longing for her grew with each passing day. She alone
understood the burdens he carried. In his dreams, he still
smelled her presence, like the scent of a field of new morning
flowers. Again, he saw her, as he first saw her—a queen full
of beauty in a garden of color. She outshone it all. The agony
of his loss was a constant dull ache in his bones. He clutched
his side. A part of him lay buried with her. He would spend
his final days near her grave, until the deep blackness
Enowsh listened. In the swiftness of the
approaching Wind, the tree leaves rustled like a garment
moving toward him. He gripped the rock ledge and turned his
back toward the Holy Wind as a blast of air hit him and swept
past him toward the houses in the valley. Enowsh stood rooted,
his faced pressed against the cold stone. His heart hardened
and he refused to turn his head and follow the path the Wind
cut through the trees. Let the Wind go about its business and
leave him alone.
A low steady hiss yanked his attention
toward his cave. He glanced down. His gaze followed the
serpentine furrows etched in the dirt, until he caught sight
of the mammoth creature sunning himself in the heat of the
rock. Their gaze met. Back and forth the serpent's tongue
flicked, tasting the air. It taunted Enowsh.
Enowsh shifted restlessly and turned
toward the oaks below. He watched the rush of the Holy Wind
become a gentle breeze that moved slowly through the trees.
Envy crept into his soul. So the rumors were true. God still
walked with a man. God. His God. Enowsh's fist hit the
slab with a crack that sent the serpent scurrying into the
darkness. His wife lay dead. His son murdered. Where had the
Creator of the universe been then? Wrath erupted in his throat
like an acid.
The sweet smell of roasting corn blended
with the smoke from the open fire. Enowsh sat forward and
stared into the flames. A distant haunting melody floated to
him across the night air, followed by the tread of footsteps.
He leapt to his feet and stole into the shadows. No friend
would come to visit him, which left only an enemy.
The young man entered the firelight and
eyed the simple necessities of Enowsh's life. He looked up.
"Ah, there you are." With a quick movement he stepped forward
and bowed low in front of Enowsh. "You are the ancient. The
A violent shudder shook Enowsh. Adam. He
hadn't heard the name since it was last uttered by his dying
wife. His name was Enowsh, because he understood the curse of
mortality. Yet this stranger seemed to know him. He pulled
back his shoulders. "That may be."
"I am Enoch."
Enowsh started. The man known to walk
with God. A jealous rage ripped through him like a knife and
he raised his staff to strike the visitor. Enoch's gaze met him
and reflected unbridled compassion. Enowsh slowly lowered his
arm and bent his head. "I have killed you too, my son. Though
I did not strike you dead, I surely have killed you as if I
had." He lowered himself to the ground. "Sit down, my son.
Tell me about your family."
Enoch curled his legs under him and his
face glowed. "I wish to tell you about my God."
"I'd rather not hear it."
Kneeling on his knees, Enoch leaned into
the light. "You were so intimate with Him. You must know He
"My son, do you not understand the
wickedness of rebellion, or the holiness of righteousness?
Have you been to the entrance of Eden? Can you not see the
glow of the flaming sword flashing against the sky? They
remind me every moment of my rebellion. God will have nothing
to do with me, and I'll have nothing to do with Him."
"But you were in fellowship with Him."
Enowsh rammed the stick into the fire,
sending sparks scattering. His fury rekindled. "I was in
perfect fellowship with Him. Don't you think I know it? But no
"Adam, it's not too late. Put aside your
rebellion and repent. I've brought a lamb for the sacrifice.
With a sudden jerk, Enowsh jabbed the
burning stick at Enoch. "Go away. Leave me alone. I don't want
to see you again."
Memories tormented Enowsh as he stared
into the depths of the dwindling fire. He cursed Enoch, and
then turned his face toward the brilliant flames at the
entrance to the Garden of Eden. The loneliness ached even the
marrow of his bones. If Enoch only spoke the truth, and God
could take him back and call him His again. But of course,
Enoch never would understand the chasm that separated him from
God. Enowsh's lip quivered. To acknowledge his sin, repent,
and to submit. Even in the early days he would never submit.
At times, the struggle inside nearly tore him apart. But oh, to
again experience the presence of God.
The sharp bleating of the lamb broke the
stillness. Enowsh whirled around and spotted the serpent,
coiled and ready to strike the beast of the field. He crashed
his stick across the mottled back of the reptile. The snake
darted. His body lunged at Enowsh. Enowsh side-stepped the
threat and heard the creature's body whip the dirt into a
cloud of dust.
Enowsh's ragged breathing heaved for air.
He could never kill the serpent. Not all alone. Enoch was
right. He must make a sin offering and beg God's forgiveness.
Never again would he let his spirit rebel. If God would just
keep him alive.
The serpent pitched his body toward the
In one motion, Enowsh bridged the gap and
scooped up the little creature. The snake struck. His fangs
sunk into Enowsh's foot.
Enowsh swung the lamb to his shoulders,
and kicked the snake's dusty underbelly until the serpent
released his grasp and sped away. It was only a matter of time
before the serpent returned. He would not give up so easily.
With deep urgency, Enowsh shoved together
stones for the altar. He placed the lamb on the ground and
thrust his knife through the new wool, piercing into the young
skin. The cry of the animal echoed off the rocks. A sharp hiss
vibrated against Enowsh's nerves. The serpent slithered into
view. His beady eyes glowed red and droplets of venom hung
from his fangs.
Enowsh laid the lamb on the wood. His
arms grew clammy as he felt the dry skin of the reptile creep
up his leg and twist around his torso. He jabbed a burning
stick to light the sacrifice.
The smooth rattles trailed across his
Gray smoke curled out from the burning
wood like a tiny thread. The smell of singed wool and roasting
meat rose into the air.
The snake constricted around Enowsh's
chest and the pressure threatened to suffocate him. He fell
backwards, rolling across the cylindrical body. With a twist
of his hands, he gripped the serpent's neck and thrust it from him, his
body writhing to pull himself free from the serpent's grasp.
Tiny eyes stared out from the large flat head, and the sharp
hiss mocked him.
"Oh God." Enowsh forced his breath out.
From across the heavens a low rumble rent
the atmosphere. Enowsh jerked his head toward the sacrifice.
He gasped. Blood ran down the sides of the altar, and the
vision he beheld stripped him of his thoughts. In the midst of
a mob, a man hung against a rough wooden cross. People stamped
and demanded the death of one named "Jesus". With a start, Enowsh gazed into the condemned man's eyes. A chill swelled
his veins. He stared past the torn flesh and recognized
his God. The man lifted His head and His shout echoed through
time. "It is finished!"
Enowsh screamed, the burden of guilt
piercing his soul. What had they done to Him? Why had He let
them kill Him? The God of all the universe.
The snake lunged at Enowsh's neck and
ripped into his shoulder. Fight ebbed out of Enowsh and his
muscles went limp. How could he have been so vile to have
killed God's son? "Oh Lord," he whispered. "I have sinned.
Forgive me, if You will."
With a mighty noise the Holy Wind swept
down from on high. The serpent's body stiffened and with a
violent tremble he slipped into the night. Enowsh shifted his
face and breathed in the scent of the Holy Wind's Life.
"Adam," a voice called in the cool of the
evening. "Where are you?"
Adam wept. "Here I am, Lord."
Enoch raised his head and stared toward
the cave where they had laid Adam's body.
A young boy ran up to Enoch and placed
his tiny hand in Enoch's large one. "Adam died an old man,
Enoch nodded. "Adam was indeed very old."
"But he was our father, right? The father
of our people."
"Yes, he was the father of many."
The boy stopped, and lifted his face to
Enoch's. "Who was Adam's father?"
Enoch smiled and ran his long fingers
through the boy's hair. "Adam's father is God."
©Janice LaQuiere 2005