Tides of Sorrow

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The vast oasis had promised a bountiful harvest. The trees, vines and shrubs had been laden with fruit; pomegranate, fig, carob, etrog, grapes and more - all plump, ripe and juicy.

Date palms had rustled in a soft desert breeze, their clumps of fruit surrendering portions of their yield in muted thuds as they’d hit the ground. Such a splendid bounty would have made any table glorious, offering a wide range of flavours and textures.

But, then it had vanished. All that was left was ravaged vegetation and rotten pulp scattered on the arid ground. God had been angered and his wrath was then cast upon those who had disobeyed his law.

It had all began a few days after a woman’s husband had left to tend the beasts of the plains and mountains, as their Lord God had ordained.

On the fifth day a stranger suddenly appeared. He was an angel, he’d told the woman. He’d said the Almighty had made of him a wanderer appointed to cross the vast lands and bless them with the gift of cultivation. He promised to bring forth enough fruit to fill her belly for many months.

Her curiosity of the stranger soon bested her and she crept into the oasis each day, watching as he moved between the varied foliage. She followed him, closely, quietly, tiptoeing across the lush green carpet.

Removing her sandals, she had welcomed the feel of the cool, fresh grass and moss underfoot; the way it tickled and teased between her toes was a delight. It was in stark contrast to the dry earth, boulders and shale which bordered the oasis and on which the humble home she shared with her husband was pitched.

The angel focused on one particular crop per day. On the first day his fingers had but to touch the foliage, and bunches of resplendent grapes were bestowed upon the vines.

On the second day, figs.

The third day it was pears with carob sprouting on the fourth, each bursting into life on their respective trees.

The fifth day saw the turn of the pomegranates which swelled and trembled in abundant fruit clusters.

Day six brought the scent of the citron, etrog, its dazzling yellow almost as bright as the sun itself.

All the fruit had quickened, growing voraciously upon stems and branches, ready to grace her table with their blessed divinity.

On the seventh day, she wandered into the oasis and everywhere the heavenly scent of fruit and blossom filled the air. Creatures such as beetles, moths, spiders and bees, scuttled, flew and hovered amongst the flowers and vegetation. It had become a paradise. An Eden. But, there was no sign of the angel.

In the centre of the oasis stood an enormous apple tree. Its many pronged branches were aged and brittle. She wondered why it had not bloomed as had all the others.

The blessed stranger then appeared from behind its trunk. He spied her watching him. He smiled and beckoned her over. At first reluctant, she stepped back, but he inched forward and held out his hand. “Do not fear that which God hath ordained.”

Tentatively, she reached out and his fingers clasped around hers.

“God doth know what thou seek,” he said softly. “He hath sent me to aid in thy quest.”

Her voice trembled. “Of what doth thou speak?”

“Knowledge. Thoust seek the knowledge.”

She glanced at the tree. God had forbidden them to eat of its bounty. To eat its fruit would bring death. For nigh on four years now they had obeyed God and left the apples untouched, unsullied. Had the Almighty suddenly wrested the gift of cultivation from his messenger so that temptation be no longer afforded them?

As if in response to her pondering, the angel steered her in front of the tree. She faced the trunk, lifting her eyes to the brittle crown. The angel took her hand, and covering hers with his, they touched the aged bark together.

Her breath hitched as she witnessed the most perfect, vibrant red fruits the tree had ever bore, grow before her eyes. Beautiful though they were she could not bring herself to think of harvesting them; to snap them from that which gave them life would surely mean her end. She shied away. Its sacred yield was not for mortal consumption. The knowledge was not hers to take.

But, the angel’s voice possessed a clarity the likes of which she had not heard before. “Thou shalt not die from eating thereof. Only thy ignorance shalt pass, for ye art blessed amongst women. Thine eyes shalt be opened to the knowledge of both good and evil.” He turned her to face him.

Her eyes misted over as she was instantly showered in a light which enveloped the angel. Above his auburn curls, a golden halo shimmered, its radiance almost blinding. Her hair was buffeted around her face as wings of purest white unfurled from behind him then curved around her, clutching her body to his.

“Thou shalt bathe in the glory of God with the knowledge of all that which He hath planned,” he whispered. “He hath delivered me unto thee so that life may spring from thy belly.” He reached up and plucked an apple from the tree. “Eatest thereof and embrace that which our God hath gifted thee.”

She bit deep and as she ate, savouring its sweetness, the angel also took a bite. And then did he know her. They coupled against the tree and as his seed flowed, her mind was ravaged by the terrifying power of the knowledge and the crushing guilt of her sin. She then saw all that would come to pass.

Before he left her, trembling, hunkered against the tree, the angel gave her another apple and commanded she give it to her husband. “He must eateth the fruit also for the knowledge is his to bear too. And he shalt raise our son as if he be of his own blood.”

Guilt threatened to swallow the woman, tears tracing down her cheeks.

“Weep not, Eve. Thy child shalt grow to do God’s work and thou shalt name him Qayin.”

Then the holy creature vanished, taking with him the opulent harvest that was once Eden.

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