The sky overhead was gray and murky. Different layers of sickly looking clouds were racing to the east, each layer at a different speed. It was such an odd and ominous sight.
“Walk a ways with me friend.” I spun around and saw him standing behind me. I hadn't even heard him coming. But then again, I never hear him coming.
Slowly my companion and I walked across an overgrown, old pasture. The hill we were on was part pasture, part forest. The top half of the hill, that which was wooded, had a cleared seam where the brush and trees had been cleared to make way for a power line years before. It was through this clearing that we made our way.
He walked so slow though, that I ended up getting to the top of the hill well before him. I lazily sat down on a tree stump and watched him clumsily try to plod towards me. When he finally made it, he awkwardly plopped down on a stump next to me, letting out a grunt in the process. For some reason it amused me how he had to wrestle so with his cumbersome hoofed feet.
“Try to be more at ease with me, friend,” he said as my lips’ amused smirk returned to their usual somber form.
“What brings you back to my neck of the woods?” I inquired, having grown impatient with the silence that had followed his last words.
“I’m here to share something with you, friend,” he replied, “to open your eyes on a matter that they have always been closed to.”
Looking over at me to gage my reaction, he gave me a polite grin and motioned with a nod of his head up towards the other side of the hilltop. We then both rose and began walking again. This time though, I walked beside my companion, offering my arm for support. I tried to follow what may have been a deer path, hoping that the pressed down grass there would make walking easier for him.
Our progress was slow, and for some reason I couldn’t help but feel incredibly awkward by the half pace I was maintaining in order that my companion not fall behind. Perhaps sensing this, he gripped my arm tenderly and signaled me to stop. Looking over at him I saw that while his breathing wasn’t particularly heavy, his head and shoulders were definitely drooping from fatigue. Glancing around, I spied a fallen branch laying amongst the tall grass, that I thought might make a good walking stick. After fetching it, I offered it, and my companion reached to accept it, offering me a smile in thanks. We proceeded on our journey.
“Who loves you the most, Adam?” he asked as we walked along.
“I imagine God does,” I replied.
He looked over at me with a frown on his face. Several moments of awkward silence followed, before he looked up at me, and with a slight smirk, said, "perhaps, perhaps not."
I looked over and cocked my head questioningly, waiting for him to elaborate. Nothing more came. I hated it when he did this! He was always saying these odd, provocative little things, and then refusing to elaborate!
We kept walking. The only sound was that of the rustling grass and the crunching old leaves beneath our feet.
Finally, we came to the far side of the hill. Just then I heard a rustling in the brush ahead us. My heart skipped a beat, and I instinctively reached my arm back to forewarn my companion that someone, or something, was up ahead of us. But when my hand swung back to warn my companion, it met with nothing but air.
I spun around, but my eyes met nothing but trees and the now empty path upon which we had walked. My walking companion was nowhere to be seen.
“Eh . . .”, I muttered as I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing more came out. “Alone again,” I thought to myself.
I walked a ways along the crest of the hill. Hearing a twig snap, a few minutes later, I turned around again. I squinted to see, but at first all I could make out were the greens, browns and whites of the forest.
As my eyes searched, I locked onto a small birch sapling some distance away. I don't know what it was about that sapling that caught my attention, but I couldn't stop looking at it. It was perfectly straight, like it had been drawn on a piece of paper with a ruler. I studied it for some time, and traced its outline with my finger in the air.
My ears saw him first. “At ease, friend,” I heard him say. My companion came into view, walking slowly and cumbersomely through the brush. I studied his face as he waddled slowly towards me, his face for some reason bearing the look of disappointment on it.
“Don’t make puzzles out of mere trees, friend,” I heard him say, softly, disappointedly, almost as if I wasn’t suppose to hear it.
Walking past me, my companion turned and motioned with his hand for me to follow him. Blinking twice, I hesitatingly obliged.
We stopped at a cliff that fell from the edge of the hilltop. I looked out over the massive valley that opened up below. I had been here to this spot before many times. No matter how many times I'd looked out over the view, it never failed to take my breath away. The valley it below went on for miles and miles. It was truly something to behold!
After a couple more minutes, my companion broke my silent contemplation by saying in a soft and knowing tone, “Just about everyone whose face and name you know lives here below us, somewhere in this valley.” I looked over at him and replied, “Yep, I reckon so.”
Bowing his head to break off eye contact, he asked, “Does that every bother you, friend?”
“No, not really,” I answered, “it’s all I’ve ever known, and I’ve had no reason to be unhappy with it.”
My companion continued looking down at the ground for some time. I was about to say something, anything, just to break the silence. But then, just as I was opening my mouth, I heard a soft giggling sound coming from behind us.
It sounded like that of young girl. Turning around to see what it was I came face to face with my companion, who somehow, without my noticing, had placed himself right, square behind me. He just stood there, practically nose to nose with me.
I almost always felt uncomfortable when in my companion's presence, but nothing like this. It felt like my insides were shrinking as he stood there staring, seemingly right through.
“What was that I just heard?” I finally asked, meekly. Inhaling, and then exhaling loudly, he slowly looked away.
“I’ve shared with you much knowledge over years, haven’t I, friend? All of which you’ve so hungrily devoured. Tell me, friend, why do you thirst so for knowledge?”
My brow crinkled up as I attempted to figure out where this was going. I wasn’t sure how I should answer his vague question.
“Come now, how precious is it to you?” he insisted. His voice now sounded impatient.
“Knowledge?” I shyly asked.
“Yes, knowledge, friend.”
Still a bit confused, I coyly asked “What kind of knowledge are you asking me about?”
“Knowledge . . .” was all he said in reply.
Taking a step back from me, he then asked “What price would pay for knowledge?”
“I . . . don’t know. I really don’t know what you’re asking me,” I said before his pointer finger reached out and gently pressed against my lips, shushing me.
One by one his other fingers extended and then slowly caressed the side of my cheek. He held them there, with his thumb planted under my chin. Cocking his head to the side, and studying my face, he muttered, “Just as I once carved it.”
Goosebumps rippled up and down my body, accompanied by a chill that made me shudder. Then, after abruptly removing his hand, my companion turned to face the other direction.
I followed his eyes. He was looking back in the direction where the girlish giggling had come from earlier. Then, suddenly, the source of the giggling became apparent. Laying there back up the trail were two intertwined ivory-pale bodies. Only partly concealed by the high grass, it quickly and embarrassingly became obvious to me what the young, writhing bodies were doing. Overcome by embarrassment, I politely and sheepishly looked away, up at the clouds above.
My companion bumped against my shoulder as he walked around me, before trudging over towards the oblivious love making couple.
When he got to where they lay, he looked back at me over his shoulder and pointed at the young man and woman. As he did so, I couldn’t help but notice the huge, gaudy ring upon his pointing finger. Perhaps it just seemed so out of place on such a dour character. Or perhaps I sub-consciously was just looking for an excuse not to look upon the naked couple. In any event, without thinking, I quizzically blurted out the word, “Jewelry?”
An angry hiss that turned into a “ssshhh!” answered me.
Finally, letting my gaze focus upon the couple, I swallowed hard in amazed realization of what I was seeing. Ear length brown sideburns on top of long black hair. My mouth dropped open, and out tumbled the quivering words, “Is that . . . ?”
“Yes,” he said in a blunt, matter of fact manner.
“What the hell is going on here!” I yelled, as my face turned a hundred shades of red.
Once again, stepping directly in front of me, face to face, his eyes bore into mine. Feelings of vulnerability, confusion, and even a bit of fear replaced my shock and embarrassment. I felt an ice cold shiver run down my spine. It ran from shoulders down, and didn't stop until it reached my now wobbly legs. I slowly turned away to escape his unbearably intense stare.
He must have moved as I was looking away. I heard the crackling of leaves and twigs as my companion walked back towards the couple.
Succumbing to curiously, I turned and watched. Feelings of nervousness and anxiety pulsed through me as my companion walked right up to the couple. They seemed totally oblivious to his presence, or to anything else for that matter.
At first he just stared at them, with no expression upon his gruff face. Then, after a few heavy moments, I watched as he purposefully threw one of his hoofed legs over the top of the couple. He was straddling them.
I watched as the familiar hands of my young mother reached up and grabbed hold of my companion’s torso, as if he was nothing more than an extension of her soon to be husband, who was in between them.
Disgusted, I clenched my eyes shut and looked away. Searing waves of heat rippled under the skin of my face. My clenched teeth grinded in a sudden, jerking motion. My face’s heat was complemented the nausea welling up inside of my stomach. I bent over and vomited into the grass. I vomited again and again, until finally I was reduced to dry heaving. Hunched over, my shaking body shivered and sweat at the same time.
Somehow sensing the close presence of my companion I stoop up, gasping for air and rolling my tongue around in my mouth trying to wash away the acidic aftertaste.
“God’s child?” I hard him spit out, “No. My child. I made you. I made all of you. Man is of my seed.”
What he said next had the tone of confidence and pride. Slowly he enunciated these words: “There were no children in
, friend. There were no
children before sin . . . only after.” Eden
Looking up at the clouds, I took a deep breath through my nostrils and fired back, “How dare you!” I surprised at my own boldness, and not really sure at the source of my own sudden indignation.
My companion simply shrugged, and matter-o-factly said, “You saw it, and with your own eyes, friend.”
Childishly, I replied, “No! No I didn’t! I didn’t see anything! My eyes were closed the whole time.”
“You would offer so weak a lie to me, friend? Is that all you offer to me for knowledge?" he retorted.
“That’s right!” my lips mouthed, “What better way to pay the Father of lies!”
I nervously waited for his reply. None came.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he cleared his throat. “Yes,” he said slowly, “the Father of lies . . . the Father of death . . . the Father of sin . . . the Father of all men . . . from Cain on . . . even . . . the Father of you!”
“I don’t believe what you’re telling me. We’re God’s . . . .” My companion cut me off before I could finish. “You think God loves you most? What greater love is there, than a Father’s love, friend? Hmmm? Answer me this!”
“But God . . .” I began to say. But my companion again cut me off, saying “God left this precious little valley of yours to me, and everything else you’ll ever see, to me. And He left it a long, long ago, friend. God left man to choose my fruit, and now you grow from MY seed!”
Tears rolled down my face and my body trembled all over. I couldn't except the words my companion was saying, the implication of it all. I turned and began to run. Clumsily, I stumbled down the hill, eager to get away from him, and the image of him and my parents. But run as I did that day, and every day since, I've never been able to escape my companion's words.