In The Beginning
by Daegaer

Dry. Dust. No life: no plants, no animals, certainly no humans. Every so often a huge spring of the primordial water beneath the earth erupted skywards, drenching the face of the ground. The run off flowed away in a vast and shining flood, eventually dividing into four mighty rivers that made their way throughout the earth. Plants began to spring up, grass and small bushes, and then, as if someone had got the hang of this, huge and fully formed trees that would make the famed cedars of Lebanon look like particularly stunted attempts by a beginner at bonsai. In the east, in a land blessed with neat flat ground and gently swelling landscaped curves, walls erected themselves. Vegetation of all sorts appeared within the walls, in neat array. The lawns were perfect, as if someone had checked the height of the grass with a spirit level. The shrubs were already neatly clipped, and the fallen leaves, if there had been any, swept away. Colourful herbaceous borders ran alongside the paths, flowers and fruit hung on the same trees. On all sides the eye was drawn off into a vague and uncertain sense of distance. All in all it resembled the model gardens so often seen on television programmes where the viewer knows that logically the space cannot be so big, it must be a trick of the camera and yet there are always unforeseen nooks and corners around which new and fresh marvels of horticulture will be found. In the centre a soft glow drew the eye. The many paths seemed to lead inward towards the glow, but anyone walking them would find they somehow came close but never arrived. This would, no doubt, have confused anyone strolling around, but there was as yet no one to stroll.

Outside the walls, it was still dry and dusty. A slight wind stirred the dust, and if any observer had been around to watch, there was the distinct impression of someone kneeling down in the dust, and rolling up their sleeves. A little of the water from the geyser spilled out silver onto the dust, as if a few drops had been carried in the palm of someone's hand. The resulting mud was stirred up and carefully, slowly, gently formed into a strange, ungainly shape. It lay there, inert. A light wind blew across the ground, and the creature opened its eyes and looked around in wonder. Someone took its hand and helped it up, smiling. The creature smiled back and trustingly went where it was led. The great gates in the eastern wall swung inward, and the creature wandered through. It stopped, its eyes going wide and round in amazement, looking back. Someone grinned, and made little shooing movements of their hands. The creature ran in, and the silence of the garden was broken by delighted laughter. The gates swung to behind it.

The human -- for so the creature had been informed -- was not over- worked. A little light weeding now and then, a little pruning to keep the lines looking sharp and clean. He worked hard at what there was to do, however, and certainly no one could fault his diligence. He was mainly silent as he worked, although sometimes he tried singing. No songs had yet been made, so his attempts were not very good. The still and quiet air of the garden absorbed the sound, and after a little he would fall silent once again. During the heat of the day he slept under the great trees. As the afternoon wore on, he generally collected fruit for the evening meal. In the cool of the evening he would perk up, and become a regular chatterbox, recounting exactly what he'd been up to all day and pushing forward the choicest, plumpest fruit for his visitor to sample. Someone asked, gently, if the human was lonely. He thought about it for a very long time. He had never considered the matter before. As he sat there, lost in thought, someone patted his shoulder kindly and left him for the night.

In the morning, the human blinked himself awake and sat bolt upright in astonishment as the gates opened. He had forgotten there was anything outside. Someone came in, followed by -- things. The human had never seen such things before, that moved of their own volition rather than swaying in the breeze. He crept closer as someone beckoned to him. He looked at the things. They looked back at him. There was an awkward moment. Someone suggested that he should think of what he'd call the things, then sat down on the grass, expectantly. The human took a deep breath and began to think up names. Someone asked how he knew what he'd just named was a lion.

"It looks like a lion," the human said, and stopped, surprised by how different his voice sounded when there were other creatures to hear it.

The lion yawned and ambled off to lie down in the shade. The human laughed and began to yell out names.


The human felt vaguely dissatisfied. His work was going well, the animals either gave him a hand or didn't get in his way, there was plenty of fruit to go around. He had decided that he was still lonely, though. He had ideas, he had things he wanted to discuss, and most of the animals found that rather amusing. He still had to wait till evening if he wanted a decent conversation. He'd been rather snippy on the topic of challenging philosophical discussions and the lack thereof the other day, and now he rather suspected the animals might be talking about him behind his back. The lion and the lamb, for example, were almost certainly only pretending to be asleep under the acacia tree.

"Bum," the human muttered, then paused to admire his own cleverness. He'd invented a swear word. Not a very strong one, admittedly, but he felt sure he could do better in time.

The only animal he felt might even come close to his own mental capacities draped itself down out of the tree he was leaning against.

"A marvellous riposte to the ennui of your daily existence," it said.

The human preened.

"Yes, I thought so," he said, giving the animal a condescending look.

"I'm quite abashed at your intellectual prowess. I may have to have a little nap to process this," the animal said, coiling itself back up onto the branch.

The human looked up, smiling. He had not yet thought of sarcasm.


The human sat, leaning back against the lion, flicking little stones into the stream. He was bored. Bored, bored, bored. As usual, the animals' favourite occupation was sleeping and whispering to each other when they thought he wasn't listening. It had been a fortnight since he'd had the argument with the chimpanzee and their friendship had spectacularly finished. The chimpanzee just told the other animals that it wasn't discussing the matter, but he knew there were all sorts of theories and rumours flying round the garden. Well, he wasn't going to be the one to give them any satisfaction.

"Good shot," the slightly cleverer than average animal said as one of the stones took the head off a lily.

The human jumped slightly. He hadn't heard it come up.

"Thank you," he said in a bored voice.

"Are you quite well?" the animal inquired pleasantly. "You've seemed listless for a while."

The human shrugged, then looked hard at the animal. It was always a surprise when it spoke to him, as if he had forgotten its existence till that moment. He had frequently complained about the other animals' indolence and rudeness when his visitor arrived, but never seemed to bring this creature to mind. He couldn't even think of its name.

"I'm fine," he said, trying to think of a subtle way to cover up his ignorance. "Awfully hot, today isn't it? Almost enough to make you forget your own name, huh?"

He gave the animal a significant look. It grinned back at him.

"Not me, I know who I am," it said.

The human blinked. Surely he was cleverer than the animals. The creature cocked its head to one side and spoke in that tone it used so often around him.

"I'm Nakhash. Don't you remember? You named me yourself."

"Oh. Serpent. Yes, I remember," the human said, trying desperately to bring the occasion to mind. "Er, whereabouts were you?"

"Down the back, with the other creeping things," the serpent said. "Dear me, it really must be hot today. That's Ari you're leaning against, by the way, and you would be Adam."

The lion shifted a little.

"I was up the front," it said sleepily.

"That's right," the serpent said, helpfully. "You did things in alphabetical order."

"Alphabetical?" the human said, floundering.

"Uh-huh. You started off with the alephs, like Ari here, and worked your way down," the serpent hissed.

After a moment, the human realised it was laughing. At him. The concept was so astounding that he could think of nothing to say, no cutting remark that would remind it that he was in charge here.

"I suppose you think you're clever?" he said finally. There. That should do it.

"Oh, I'm smarter than the average living creature of the field," the serpent said, a conciliatory smile on its lipless mouth. "And I know what your problem is."

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," the human said in a huff.

"No? You're not feeling isolated and alone, cut off from the animals, wondering why they get four legs or wings or shiny jewel like scales, and you get to teeter along on two spindly legs and have -- I'm sorry to say - rather a dull and uninteresting skin, no beautiful golden fur like Ari here? You don't feel things would be so much more interesting if there was someone else like yourself around? My mistake then. I'll be off."

"Wait!" the human called, annoyed. He'd demolish this serpent's silly arguments. No animal was going to get the better of him.

The serpent obligingly came back. It raised itself up and waited patiently.

"For your information, serpent, I happen to be perfectly content. I have a fulfilling job, a beautiful home. I get on just fine with the animals, and I'm certainly not jealous of their abilities or attributes, and I can't think of a single animal that has a problem with me."

"That's not what the chimpanzee says," the lion remarked, turning over.

The human's mouth hung open. Of all the nerve. The serpent's mouth was firmly closed, laughter dancing in its flat yellow eyes.

"The way I see it," it said after it became clear that the human wouldn't be saying anything for a while, "we all have the same problem. We're all male."

"Huh?" the human said. This was another matter he had never considered. "How do you know?"

The serpent's gaze swept up and down his body.

"I have an eye for details," it said dryly. "Now, don't get me wrong, you won't find a more open minded beast of the field than myself, people's private business is their own I always say, but haven't you ever wondered what it would be like to have a little female companionship?"

"Why?" the human said, puzzled.

"Suppose any of us felt like propagating the species? No, don't interrupt, I'll explain at another time. Let me put it this way: someone forgot to make any girls. You wouldn't mind a few girls around, would you, Ari?"

"Why would he want girls around? What is a girl?" the human asked, well out of his depth.

The lion attempted to cover its sniggers by putting both front paws over its nose and pretending to sneeze. The serpent glided forward and wound itself around the human's shoulders, warm and heavy. It peered into his eyes in a confiding manner.

"Just think about it. You might want to bring it up some evening. I don't mind if someone thinks it's your idea. You'd have come up with it eventually, after all. You're a clever boy."

It winked, unwound itself and slithered away. The human looked sidelong at the lion, who hurriedly shut its eyes and tried to pass off the continuing giggles as a fit of the hiccups. The human stretched out his legs. Interesting. Of course that was the problem. Obvious when you thought about it. It would just have been a matter of time till he came up with a tactful way of phrasing the matter. That was the trouble with the animals, they didn't understand the need for subtlety like he did.


That evening, over a very fine mixed salad, he complained. None of the animals was a suitable companion. They were too lazy, too sure of themselves, too disrespectful and he didn't see why he should be the first to apologise seeing as the chimpanzee had started it in the first place, and why weren't there any girls here anyway? Someone raised an eyebrow and inquired who on earth he'd been talking to? The human sulkily said he'd been talking to no one, he could come up with ideas on his own, thank you very much. Someone just looked at him for an eternally long moment. The human felt very small, and murmured a quiet string of words in which Please and Thank You and If it wouldn't be too much trouble figured highly. Someone nodded, finally, and flicked the human on the forehead. He fell over, comatose.

Most of the animals gathered round, fascinated. It seemed a delicate operation, but one that was progressing satisfactorily. When it was over, someone blew on the still form, and helped her up. She looked round in wonder at the garden and the animals. Someone patted her on the head, then bent down and shook the other human awake. He jumped up, shrieking with delight when he saw her.

"Finally!" he yelled. "Someone like me, at last!"

The animals shuffled, embarrassed to have to watch this. Someone cast their eyes to heaven. The humans ran off, hand in hand, laughing and pointing out flowers to each other. Someone sat down, a hand buried in the lion's mane, scratching just behind its ear. Someone supposed it would be asking for a lioness now? The lion purred and said that personally, whatever someone thought was best was fine by it. Someone said well, that was the difference between the animals and the human, wasn't it?


Its full, heavy length coiling round a massive branch, the serpent looked down at the two humans gambolling around the garden. A man and a woman, well, well. It dropped its head down to a lower level to keep an eye on them as they skipped along the paths.

"Hello, dearie," it hissed quietly to itself.

It turned its head towards the centre of the garden, towards the soft, golden glow that was always there.

A satisfied look came into the yellow eyes.



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