Genesis is the first place winner in SNHU’s 2015 Fall Fiction Short Story Competition.
by Syche Phillips
In the beginning, it’s awkward, as so many things are. You don’t know where you’re allowed to sit, where you’re expected to sleep, what there is to eat. You don’t even know what to call him. He seems to assume you know his name, and it apparently doesn’t occur to him to ask yours. Not that you would even know the answer.
He shows you around, touching you carefully as though you’re new-blown glass. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with you. (But you don’t know what to do with yourself.) He tries to make small talk with you, but it’s one-sided. You want to ask him about everything around you, but you don’t want to pester him. When you do ask him a question, he gives a long-winded answer that leaves you feeling…annoyed. If he knows more than I do, it’s because he’s older and more experienced, you think, not because he’s smarter.
Although…maybe he is smarter. You want to ask him what he thinks.
You’re perching carefully on a large mossy rock, watching the fish jump in the river, when he calls to you, “Eve!” For a moment you don’t move, and then you realize he’s talking to you, using a name you haven’t heard him use for any of the plants or animals he’s shown you. He calls again—“Eve?”—and you stand up tentatively and take a step toward him.
“Can you bring me some figs?” he asks, from where he’s stretched out on the grass. You look around, until he points to the correct tree. You gather a handful and bring them to him, then watch him pop each one into his mouth. He makes an irritating “mm…ah!” sound after each one, but doesn’t offer you any.
“Thanks, Eve,” he says as an afterthought. You’re not sure what the appropriate response is, so you just smile. Later, you think maybe you should have thanked him back?
As the sun starts going down, and a barely perceptible coolness settles over the garden, an untoward rumbling sounds comes from your midsection, followed by a vaguely uncomfortable feeling of emptiness. Your male companion apparently notices the noise, and he asks, “Are you hungry?”
“Hungry…” you say. “Yes, I think so.”
He seems confused. “Well, then eat something.” He gestures around you. “Eat whatever you like.”
Suddenly the choice seems too large for you. “Oh, I don’t even know what…” He takes your hand and leads you from tree to bush to vine, giving you the names again that he gave you that morning. “Mandarins…grapes…olives…dates…figs…” he says, and you repeat each one, determined this time to remember. At each stop he also picks a fruit and puts it in your mouth, so you can savor each different taste, and use the flavor to help remember which is which. After one complete pass through the garden, you’ve tasted dozens of morsels from his fingers, and no longer feel hungry.
Soon, it’s full dark, the only light coming from a high clear full moon. The birds have completely stopped singing. You hear a hooting noise from somewhere in the wilds of the garden, outside of your clearing. Your mind feels less sharp than it had in the daylight, and you have an urge to lie down. You look around for an appropriate place, but it seems that your male companion has claimed the biggest, softest stretch of grass. He’s on it now, propped on his elbows, legs sprawled out. He’s watching you.
“You can come lie down with me, if you want,” he says. You don’t want to hesitate and hurt his feelings, so you step carefully over to him and stretch out, using your arm as a pillow. For a moment, all is quiet, except for the myriad night noises that reach you, most from sources you can’t yet name, although the sound of the river is familiar.
You can hear him breathing shallowly.
You are simultaneously exhausted and alert. Today seemed so long and so full, and all you want is to be momentarily unaware of it again. You have lived a lifetime in twelve hours. You feel as if you could close your eyes and drift away, tethered to this garden but in a different place somehow.
At the same time, you are highly aware of him so close to you. He doesn’t seem tired and ready to drift off. But what could he possibly want from you? In the dark?
He shifts position and then you feel his hand on your stomach. You hold your breath, but he leaves it there, as if it’s an accident. Then he says quietly, “Do you think that you’re—that I’m—that we’re both here for a reason?”
“I don’t know why I’m here,” you say.
“Well, you’re here for me,” he says. “You’re here because I was lonely.”
“But I don’t even know your name,” you admit.
“I’m Adam,” he says, surprised. “Didn’t anyone tell you? I’m Adam. You’re Eve.” A pause, and then his hand slides higher up your stomach, and your muscles tense. “We belong together.”
“What are you doing?” you ask. He’s quiet for a moment.
“I’m not sure,” he says. “I just wanted to touch you. I felt like I should touch you. So I did. Is that all right?”
“I suppose so,” you say automatically. Then, “Actually no, I’d rather you didn’t right now.” When he doesn’t respond, you add, “I mean, I just learned your name.”
“I understand,” he says, and his hand is gone, replaced by the cool feeling of nighttime on your skin. Your initial sense of relief is replaced by longing.
You don’t sleep much that night. In the moonlight you can see Adam’s profile, as he snores quietly next to you. You think about his words: You’re here for me. We belong together. And if you can’t figure out why else you’re here, isn’t that as good a reason as any? You think of the animals he showed you today—they all come in pairs. A goose and a gander, a doe and a buck, a lion and a lioness. An Adam and an Eve?
As the sky is lightening, you finally fall asleep. You sleep lightly, not really dreaming. When you feel Adam get up, you’re fully awake again, but with a newfound sense of peace.
When you get up, he’s sitting cross-legged near the river, absent-mindedly plucking a handful at a time and sprinkling it into the water. As you watch, two ducks float into view, followed by a trio of ducklings. You feel a pleasant tug inside you at the sight of the small family.
You walk to Adam’s side and sit down. He smiles at you and pulls some more grass. You slide your hand into his free hand, and lace your fingers through his, and without a moment’s hesitation he squeezes back. You’re still not sure what the future holds, but for now, you feel content. You lay your head on his shoulder and you both watch the ducks until they’re gone.
Syche Phillips is working toward her master’s in English and creative writing with a concentration in fiction writing at SNHU. Her poetry and prose have been published in Seele and Mused. Her short plays, including Tumble Dry Low and Send Message, have been produced around the San Francisco Bay Area. By day she works in marketing at a professional theatre company and sketches plot arcs on scratch paper. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband (aka best friend) and two young children.