Virus in the Garden of Eden
The serpent called Lucy raised her head and stared. Trampling carelessly on the colourful flowers beneath a ten million year old oak were two odd-looking creatures.
Lucy was riveted. She had never seen anything like them before in the Garden – and she had been here from its inception. Where on earth had they come from and what were they doing here?
She watched in awe as they walked around on two long structures, admiring their sense of balance.
Suddenly they stopped and began to utter strange sounds as they came across something unknown to them hanging from a small tree. The taller of the two creatures prodded at the fruit and after a moment’s consideration, reached up and plucked it from the tree, turning the ripe red apple around in its twig-like claws. It inspected the coloured object, smelling it, licking it, and then opened its mouth to taste it. The creature was content, and while chewing, offered the apple to its smaller companion, which took a bite and nodded in approval.
They chomped greedily at the apple until there was nothing left except its core studded with black pips. They threw that to the ground and instantly began to touch each other and utter strange sounds. Lucy flicked her tongue and tasted their arousal as they sank to the ground, flattening the flowers.
She glided forwards until she was at their side, willing and eager to greet them. A friend. She had no fear of the creatures for the Garden was unaccustomed to danger and threat; yet she knew that they were alien to the Garden and sensed that they were somehow powerful, and dangerous.
The creatures stopped rolling and stared at her, silent as they looked her up and down. The taller one stretched out one of its structures and poked her. Lucy instantly drew back, repulsed and afraid. That was inappropriate; only beasts of the same kind were allowed to touch each other.
“Goodness, what is this!? Oh, I know…” The smaller creature made a sound like a hyena screeching, “…we have been sent more food!”
Suddenly a bird alighted near the creatures, its feathers bright green and blue; a beautiful thing. The taller creature called out in glee, grabbed the bird and started to bang its head on the ground. The bird struggled in vain to escape but it was helpless. Lucy watched in horror as the bird’s head dropped to one side, its beak apart as it took its dying gasp of breath.
How could they? She was furious with the creatures and felt that they had no business in killing the bird, but as was her genesis, she sprang forwards and snatched the dead bird, stretching her jaw and gulping it down in seconds.
The smaller creature stood to its full height and began to make loud angry gestures. Lucy didn’t understand what was wrong with it. Did the creature not understand the pecking order in the Garden?
She began to crawl back through the browns and greens of the forest, perturbed.
Her world was changing.
She sensed movement. The creature was running after her, one of its structures holding something – a weapon – waving it in the air, menacing.
Lucy fled inside her nest where her ten babies were wriggling impatiently, eager to be on their way. Still, she desired to protect them for a while longer. She coiled her body swiftly and lay in front of them, effectively blocking the entrance. For the first time in her life she was terrified and didn’t understand what was happening.
There was the sound of twigs snapping, then all was still; the creature was standing outside. Lucy flinched as she felt something prod her body. A head appeared and two large eyes glared at her. Lucy edged back further until she was under a rock and obscured by the darkness. She hoped she was safe. She lay silently with her babies for some time, disbelieving, and shaken at this peril that had come to the Garden.
After a while, she glided to the entrance and looked around. The creatures were now engaged in another activity. They were tugging hard on a small withered tree that had doubled over in their grasp, powerless to resist. The trunk snapped and the creatures slapped their structures together and were loud.
One of them shouted, “We’ll break this old tree up so we can make a shelter.”
Lucy watched as the top of the tree hit the ground and eggs fell from a nest.
“And we have more food!” yelled the other as it proceeded to inspect the contents of one of the eggs. It put out its tongue and tasted the yolk. “Ugh!”
The creature threw the egg to the ground and seemed to be thinking. All of the beasts in the Garden were silent, sensing that something was happening which was going to change their world forever; and there was sadness, for they did not want it to change.
The creature tapped the side of its head, “I’ve had an idea!”
Taking two small branches from the tree, the creature rubbed them hard together. Lucy watched in fascination as something bright orange leapt from the branches. She could feel heat and immediately backed up. Instinct told her that some of the sun had fallen from the sky but she did not know how the creatures had managed to catch it.
They snapped more branches from the tree and made a kind of mesh, dropping the eggs onto it to secure them. They then held their cooking utensil over the orange flames and watched as the eggs cooked and turned a creamy colour. The creatures soon found out that they needed to respect the fire and keep their distance. They also discovered that they could blow on the eggs to cool them, and they began to eat them eagerly.
“This is good!” the tall one cried.
But the branches from the old tree were brittle and soon orange flame was spreading across the grass to the other trees, and fast. In this part of the forest all the flora was dry and the beasts becoming thirsty for water; however, they were not unduly concerned. The rains would come as they always did, filling the rivers and seas to hydrate and nourish everything that grew in the Garden. And the rains would be on time; life moved to a regular beat in the Garden of Eden.
Now birds filled the sky, twittering and squawking in panic, fluttering wildly over the treetops and calling out to their young. Lost in clouds of smoke, most did not understand what was happening and were slow to fly away. Some were burned alive as the trees caught fire. Yet other beasts in the trees screamed in fear, climbing higher to escape the flames. The ground shook as the larger beasts panicked and began to stampede through the forest in fear.
Lucy wound her way back swiftly to her forever home and her babies, but when she got there she found that the fire had raised the temperature in the hole and it was unbearable. She found the baby serpents outside, squirming crazily and not knowing where to go. Neither did Lucy.
Suddenly she was spitting; some trait had awakened in her that she didn’t even know she had. These creatures were destroying her home, her family, and the ancient yet beautiful Garden that had nurtured them all for millions of years.
The instincts that she had been given were jolted into action. She felt rage wash over her and with a speed that she was unaware she possessed, she zigzagged across the forest floor to the creatures, who were waving their structures in horror at the fire and coughing in the smoke.
She had no sympathy for them or for their ignorance. She struck at them, the big one first and then the smaller one, finding that she had the ability to release venom from her saliva through her fangs and into their skin. She was disturbed by her violent reaction; yet it was effective.
The stricken creatures dropped to the ground, writhing in agony; then they were still.
Lucy’s instinct urged her to flee from the fire but the flames were all around her and she couldn’t see how to escape.
A bird fell from the sky and landed at her side, struggling to breathe. Another landed beside it, yet she had no desire to feed on them. Their feathers were singed and their freshness destroyed; they were somehow poisonous.
Suddenly, the smaller creature spluttered and began to crawl through the burning ferns. It was holding its stomach as if to protect something. Lucy tested the air and instinctively understood. She thought of her babies and was momentarily sad; yet she must not allow the Garden to be inhabited by still more of these destructive creatures.
She wound her way through the burning grass in agony, feeling the heat scorching her belly, knowing that she must destroy the creature before it could do any more damage to the Garden. It was the right thing to do.
She struck at the creature again, but missed. There was a dreadful smell in the air and she could hear the other beasts calling out to her to help them. She struck again, and missed again, her power diminishing by the second.
Lucy’s scales were melting in the flames. She saw that the apples on the trees were shrivelling in the fire; they too had been destroyed. Clouds of smoke billowed into the heavens and polluted the air and released strange-smelling fumes. She found that she was yearning for her babies and hoped they would survive.
She watched dejectedly as the smaller creature crawled away from the fire towards the mountains, no doubt to find somewhere safe to give birth.
There would be more of them.
Lucy hung her head. She had failed. The Garden of Eden would never be the same again.
And so it came to pass…
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