She wakes suddenly and clutches the soft leather that covers her belly. Snuggling into her husband, the warmth from his back comforts her, and she drapes her arm over him. The baby begins to move, and she wonders if he will feel the movement and awaken as he has done so many other nights. Thinking about this child, so long awaited, fills her with renewed contentment. She treasures the feeling, a contentment that has come at such a great cost, such a great loss. As sleep begins to relax her, she plays the scene of their first meeting again in her mind. He had been lying on the ground in that place asleep on his side, sleeping as deeply as he sleeps now.
She had no memory of how she arrived that day, only a feeling that someone had brought her to the place with a purpose. Gray mist curled up from the ground making the air smoky. A gentle wind pushed at her back propelling her forward on unsure feet. What was this place? As she crept through the mist, she took in the beauty of her strange surroundings. Something fluttered overhead in the branches of the trees, green with leaves. She looked up at a small round bird, it’s bright blue feathers radiant and electric. A small patch of fire red feathers at its throat swelled as the creature sang its greeting. At once she was aware of other movements and sounds in the forest. A huge cat stepped out of the forest and stood studying her. It was half as tall as she with orange striped fur. The white fur of its face made the black stripes more prominent but not as prominent as the long, curved fangs that protruded from its mouth.
“Does he know you’re here?” the cat said.
“Who?” she replied. The cat lumbered up to her and sniffed quizzically.
“Come with me,” the cat said and turned down a path.
The breeze pushed at her back again. The two continued through the forest. Shadows from the late afternoon sun flickered on either side of them, some passed quickly through the trees. She could hear strange voices and sounds. There was a mix of song and chattering, and as they passed, the forest began to awaken with life.
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased to see you,” the cat said.
Another creature scurried up a tree in front of them. Green scales covered its rather small body. It had four legs with large feet that clung to the bark and a long tail that wrapped around the trunk. Unlike the other animals, this one gave her no greeting but only looked intently at her with harsh yellow eyes.
She continued walking with the cat in silence through the dissipating mist to a clearing. She stopped abruptly when she saw the man sleeping on the forest floor. She was aware of soft, cool grass under her feet, but her eyes were fixed on the man. He was her kind.
The cat plodded up and nudged him with its large head then began licking his face and arm. He stirred slightly and swatted at the animal’s face as he turned onto his back. The creature continued to lick until he opened his eyes, sighed, and sat up.
“There’s something you should see,” the animal said. They both looked over their shoulders at her.
She cries out in the dark, awakening suddenly. She doesn’t know what has awakened her, but he is still sleeping peacefully beside her. She rolls onto her back, brushing her hair from her face with a rough, calloused hand, and settles back into her pleasant memory. Her memories are all she has left of any real pleasantness.
The man stood and approached her, the surprise on his face speaking louder than the forest animals. “I thought I was the only one,” he said as he took her soft hands, examining them closely. Then he touched her hair, her face, her lips, and said, “You’re my woman.” And he smiled.
He had taken her around their new home that afternoon, showing her the wonders and the majesty of the place. Sparkling waters of a river meandered nearby like a silvery-blue ribbon through the land. Fruit grew abundantly, and he promised he would show her where the best food could be found. When he opened a red pod and handed it to her, its yellow flesh dripping with juice, she realized she was hungry. With all the abundance of the forest, she certainly would not know hunger for long.
They had spent the early days exploring, discovering, and learning. One day, they came upon a small tree she had never seen full of purple pods. Before she could approach it, her companion pulled her back. “That one’s poisonous. It will kill you quickly.” This caused a flood of questions to roll out of her until he spouted sharply, “I said it’s a bad one. Don’t even touch it.” She shrunk away from it, wondering how something so dangerous could grow amid such beauty.
“How do you know which ones are good to eat?” she questioned. He had such wondrous knowledge about this place.
“I just know. The Great Spirit guides me,” was his only explanation.
“And the Great Spirit told you that one kills?” she queried looking back at the beautiful bush.
Each time they came upon a new creature, he would tell her what he called it. They had many companions in the forest. One morning they found Lady Sheep standing in the meadow, her belly swollen. She announced she was having a young one quite soon. They stayed with her all that day. That evening Lady Sheep effortlessly gave birth to a lamb. As the days and weeks passed, the woman noticed more young baby creatures with their mothers and felt a yearning she had not known before.
She entered a glade one morning and saw a little horse standing with a colt beside her. They both had thin white stripes on their head and neck, bright white against the dark brown fur. The stripes melted into white legs, but their bodies were solid brown as if a painter had begun drawing lines on them but hadn’t finished. She greeted them, admiring the young colt. She walked over and touched its soft fur.
“When did he come?” she asked the animal.
“In the night,” the mother replied and nuzzled her baby.
As she left the glade, Baby Lamb bounced up to her. She stroked its soft fur and held it close trying to fill the growing emptiness in her. That afternoon, she spoke to her husband. “Why do we not have our own young like the animals?”
He laughed at her, caressing her fondly, “Well, it’s not for lack of trying.”
“I’m serious. You should talk to your Great Spirit and ask where our man-child is,” she said. He only breathed deeply and shook his head.
“What are you doing?” he asked as he watched her weave long grasses in and out of each other. The little lamb snuggled next her and nibbled on one long strand.
“I’m making something to hold the berries.” She finished weaving and lifted the curved mat cautiously. This time it held together, so she went to gather food for dinner.
As she knelt to pick some blue berries, the Armored One crept out, causing her to jump and spill the contents of her basket. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he apologized. “I’d help pick that up, but…” He tried to raise one of his short legs. “I have no thumbs.”
“It’s fine,” she replied, picking up her food.
“I saw some nice new berries over there,” he said, trying to gesture with his frilled chin. “I’ll show you.” He darted off and she trotted after him, eager to try something new.
They were near the purple pod tree, and she started to say something when a tremendous thunder sounded from beyond the forest and the ground shook.
“What’s happening?” she cried, looking up at the sky. She could see great trees far in the distance rustling and swaying each time the ground trembled. She wondered what kind of animal could move trees.
“That’s something that’s in the Beyond. Somewhere outside the forest,” the green creature replied.
“I must go,” she said, clutching her basket. As she hurried back to her man, she heard the Armored One call out, “Another time! There will be plenty of chances.” That night, as they ate, she told him of her experience.
“I don’t know what’s beyond the forest,” he said. The cat lumbered in and lay down beside him.
“You do not want to know,” the creature advised. She stroked the lamb curled in her lap and exchanged a look with the man. They both looked off into the night. The cat arrested their attention, with a mighty roar. “That world is . . . large. Too large.”
Familiar thunder sounds in the distance, and she feels faint rumblings in the ground. They were far away tonight. Surely, he will keep them away tonight. She reaches out and feels the spear on the ground beside her. If only she hadn’t . . . if only she could . . . The pain grips her belly, and she cries out. By the time she is fully awake, the pain has subsided, leaving her panting heavily. She waits, rubbing his back. He rolls over and mumbles. Soon another pain grips her belly and spreads around to her back. She cries out and he jumps up, grabbing his spear. He squats, poised to throw the lance, his other arm stretched to sight the enemy.
“Where is it?” he shouts.
“It’s not the beast. It’s me,” she says. “The pains have started.” She breathes deeply then stands. Moonlight seeps in from the holes in the top of the hut. “I should walk.”
“Don’t go outside!” he calls. He feels her pierce him with that look even in the dark. He grimaces and braces for her retort.
“I know,” she says flatly.
She paces around the hut. She knows the dimensions in the dark. Six paces, turn to the right, six paces, turn to the right, and another six paces. She turns around and retraces her steps. She retraces again.
They had walked through the forest that day, the lamb close at her side. “I want to go to the big grass,” he bleated as he skipped.
“We call that the Meadow,” she instructed her pet. They stepped out of the trees and saw Lady Sheep feeding. The man patted the little lamb’s rump and said, “Here’s your meadow. Go on.”
Nestling themselves onto the cool grass, she watched the lamb jumping and bouncing toward his mother. The Great Spirit had something for everyone in this place, except her.
She leaned against his chest. “We’ve been here so long now. Why don’t we have one like us? What do you think we are doing wrong?”
He was already asleep.
She stood to leave the meadow and heard a familiar scratching. She looked up and saw the Armored One clinging to the tree trunk. “Do you want to find those berries now?” She shrugged, but she followed him. Soon they were by the purple pod bush.
“I keep telling you we can’t eat that one. It’s bad,” she said.
“It won’t kill you. I eat it all the time.” The reptile tore open a pod, revealing its deep crimson fruit and ate. Juice trickled and dripped from his chin when he looked at her said, “See. I’m not dead. Go on; take a bite. Then you’ll know what you’ve done wrong.”
She ignored the stare of his hooded yellow eyes as she plucked a ripe pod. She took a bite just as her mate walked up behind and asked, “Now, what are you doing?”
The pain tears at her again, and she drops to the ground. Her whole body is engulfed in pain as if large hands were squeezing her stomach, squeezing the life out of her. “He was right,” she cries into the dirt floor. “He was right.” And she sobs.
“You can’t worry about that now. Is the baby coming?” he asks.
The pain subsides and she breathes deeply. She raises herself and lays on the animal skins. “I think so.” If only she had trusted him, but it was too late for regrets. She trusts him now. She lost everything to gain this trust. Now, he would help
She feels her agony invade again, slowly squeezing then ripping. She tries to squirm away from it, but it gets stronger. Where are you? She begins panting as she had seen She Cat do so many times when she gave birth. Another pain grips her and she cries out. Who told you that? She grabs her husband. Have you eaten . . . ? She clutches the orange striped skin beneath her and screams. What have you done?
“What have I done?” she cries out. “I’m dying! I’m dying now.” Bring me the lamb! “No!” Now she begins working with the force that seems to be killing her, and she pushes from deep inside. She can’t resist pushing the life out, sure that she will also die.
She gives one last anguished cry and feels her baby slip into the world. It is finished. Her husband wraps the baby in the skin he has been softening for the last two moons and announces, “You have a man-child.” He hands her the bundle and snuggles next to his wife.
She smiles and says, “I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord.”
So He drove the man out. . . . the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord.”