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In the Beginning

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She comes into being one day when the sun is high in the sky and all the trees are green.

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It takes time until she knows all the animals. They all have names; Adam named them, before she came.

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At night sometimes she falls asleep with her hand resting on his skin there, that missing rib. She thinks, I was there; that was me. 

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God comes around some days, looks in on them, talks to them sometimes. He talks to Adam, usually. She doesn't know if it's because he was there longer, because he's the first one God made. Maybe it's just because God made him all from scratch, just dirt and will, and he made her from something that was already her, just growing and changing what he already had before him. Maybe he thinks she's still just a part of Adam. Maybe he remembers that Adam is like him, just in his image, but that he made her different. But she doesn't know why he did that, either. 

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There are animals that live in the lake and animals that live on the ground, and there are ones that live in both; beautifully-colored frogs leaping onto the bank, long-bodied salamanders staring off into the distance at the water lines. The hippos go in to bathe -- a lot of animals go in to bathe, but they all move aside when the hippos come. Everyone knows their part.

God comes one day when they're in the water, a little ways down from where some lions stand on the low bank, lapping at shallow waves. God is the one thing you can't see, and she doesn't realize he's there until the lions straighten up, the family of geese that was tottering by them stretching their wings and hopping down into the water.

God is silent for a long time, though. God knows everything, but he still goes to the trouble of talking, maybe for their sakes. He says, What are you doing? And it sounds puzzled, but God is never puzzled.

Adam says, "We're swimming."

God is silent again. Adam treads water for a while, waiting. She flips onto her back and kicks off a little, doesn't go far.

God says, I didn't make you to swim. And this is true enough; they spend long days lying on their stomachs on the banks, looking down at the fish. There are all kinds of water things they're missing, though they don't know what they're all for. Translucent fins and eyes that don't blink and whatever it is that lets them never come up for air.

God didn't make them not to swim, either; anyone can swim. But they didn't use to do this -- not the desperate flail of a jackal pup knocked into the water by its brothers, but the smooth, long strokes they discovered by stages, until water felt as natural as air, if only for a time.

"We learned to," she dares, when Adam seems at a loss, and maybe God is at a loss too, except, of course, he can't be.

He says, I didn't teach you, but then she's at a loss too, and in the end God leaves them there. It's getting cold. 

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At night sometimes she dreams -- pictures that aren't there and things that didn't happen -- about that time they came into being together, how they named everything together. How they were both in God's image. That never happened. She knows that when she's awake. 

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She doesn't really like the snake. It's dark green and brown, and it can disappear in plain sight if you just blink. It hisses its words so you have to strain to hear it. She'd just ignore it that day, too, just walk away, but it's crawling up the Tree, looped around a branch and looking straight at her, and its head darts faster than thought, and an apple drops to the ground. 

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She knows all the things now that she wasn't supposed to. She doesn't know why she shouldn't have known them, and that should make her afraid. But it doesn't; it makes her feel bold, and new in a strange way, like that day long long ago when she stood under the sun and the trees for the first time. She wants to share it -- she wants Adam to know, too, that all these things they were forbidden, they're all so silly, so immaterial; they don't even matter, and somehow that knowledge feels like the most important thing of all. It feels like she could just stand before God, armed with it, and talk right back, make him see her like she was really there, not just Adam's shadow. Like she was in his image, too -- and isn't her mind in his image now, isn't that what he was afraid of? 

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Somehow it's not the same once Adam takes a bite. Maybe she should have stayed the only one who knew. Adam knows God better, and maybe, maybe, Adam loves God better, because the fear on his face is nothing like what she felt as she chewed the apple.

He says, "We're naked," and she frowns, it takes a beat to understand. Then she realizes that God will come around again and that in that thought of standing before him just as she was, and being good enough, she never thought of that; she is naked. She'd been naked all along.

Shame is also new, but unlike all the other new things, she doesn't understand it. It never mattered before, that everyone and everything could see them. It matters now. She wants to hide. 

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God does come around, and he knows just what they did, though he pretends he doesn't. He does talk to her this time.

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There is no garden in the dreams, and no Trees. Just the world, lines less smooth than in the garden, less green, more clear somehow. She knows they aren't real, the dreams, just lies, just stories -- she knows about those now, too. But when the gate closes behind them, the Angel with its flaming sword, salt and bile in her mouth like she's choking on the noises she doesn't even recognize, coming out of her own throat just like they are from Adam's -- she looks up, just once, just as that thunder sounds of the gates slamming together, and she sees it all just like she dreamed.