A warm welcome to my blog. It is Writers Quote Wednesday and I offer you a quote and a story. Enjoy.
“And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone or that’s an evil one because it hurts them. People are too complicated to have simple labels.”
The Cursed Tree
by Vashti Q
The earth rumbled, and the sky turned an ominous dark grey. Large black clouds swirled across the heavens, colliding with each other. A sweet, pungent smell drifted through the air. Once the rain arrived, other odors came. The pounding water shook the plants and trees and carried their odiferous particles in the air. Jagged lightning bolts split the skies, spearing trees and turning them to ash. Deafening thunderclaps made the garden tremble. God was angry. Man had betrayed him. The Garden of Eden would no longer be home to Adam and Eve.
Only one tree still stood among the devastated land: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It, too, was cursed and would not last long in the tumultuous storm of God’s rage. A powerful gust of wind removed a seed from this tree and blew it out of the garden and into the world.
The tiny doomed seed drifted to the area of a large, roaring river and landed near its bank. The winds continued to bluster, covering it in moist soil. Buried and forgotten, the small seed took root.
In time, the seed pushed through the soil a green, quivering stem adorned with tiny, prickly leaves.
“What is it, Cain?” Abel scrunched his nose.
“What does it look like? It is a plant of some kind.” Cain peered at the rudimentary tree.
“I know that, but what kind of plant? It looks different from all the other vegetation. I do not like it.” Abel’s thick blond hair fell on his face as he leaned forward to take a better look.
“I think it is a newborn tree, and I do like it.” Cain stared at it. “I am going to build a barricade around it to protect it from the animals.”
“Why?” Abel asked. “It is ugly.”
“I want to see it grow. Besides, sometimes things that begin as ugly can grow to be beautiful.”
Abel’s brow joined in thought. Cain brushed his brother’s hair from his face. He could not stand that his younger brother never tied his hair back. On the other hand he always kept his dark brown hair tied back and neat.
Cain kept to his word and built a barrier around the small tree. The boy visited the tree daily and made sure it was doing well. He even spoke to it. “I know you probably do not understand my words, or maybe you do. I know not. Nevertheless, I shall take good care of you and see what fruits you bear.”
“Thank you,” the tree responded in his mind. He jumped, startled by the strange voice in his head.
Cain looked around and saw no one. His deep cerulean eyes gawked at the small tree before him. “D-did you speak to me?”
“I did,” the tree said.
Cain gasped. He took a few steps back. “How is this so? Trees do not speak.”
“Just because one never spoke to you does not mean that trees do not speak,” the tree said.
Cain stared at the tree.
“Protect me and help me grow and I shall bear extraordinary fruit just for you.”
Wide-eyed, he nodded in agreement.
He continued to visit the tree almost every day. He pulled any weeds growing near it. He made sure the tree’s soil was moist and that it was receiving enough water. He also took care of the surrounding land. He planted fragrant flower bushes and verdant plants to grow along with the tree. Soon, he had created a small paradise with the tree in the center of it.
He had many conversations with the tree and it was a good listener. As Cain grew up alongside the tree, he did a lot of complaining about his brother Abel, and the tree paid attention.
Years went by, and both Cain and his tree grew big and strong. He had grown into a handsome young man—tall, with long, dark hair, eyes blue like the twilight skies, and creamy skin the color of golden powder sand. He loved the land and knew how to work it well, and working it made him strong and muscular. Every seed he planted yielded luscious fruits, vegetables, and beautiful flowers.
One day, he came to visit his tree. Cain carried a basket filled with delectable fruits and vegetables. He grumbled under his breath as he kicked stones in his path. He let the basket drop to the ground. The crops spilled out and rolled in different directions on the lush grass. He fell to his knees and wept into his hands.
“What is the matter? the tree asked. “Why are you so troubled?”
“Nothing I do is good enough!” Cain’s eyes were dark and glistened as he continued to weep.
“What do you mean? Everything I have seen you do has been extraordinary. Because of you, I thrive.”
“My father does not think so,” Cain said. “Only my brother, Abel can do right in his eyes.”
“It seems that your golden-haired brother does nothing but cause you grief.”
“Even God shuns my crops and acclaims his sacrificed lamb. I am the eldest, yet I have always walked in my brother’s shadow. But there is nothing I can do.”
“Kill him,” the tree said, “you can kill him.”
Cain gulped air and stared at the tree, openmouthed. “No! I cannot slay my brother!”
“Why not? You are much stronger than he is.”
Cain looked bewildered. “I-I just cannot kill him.”
“You have never killed but your brother has killed many times.” The leaves on the tree trembled. “Every time he sacrifices a lamb or a goat, he kills.”
“This is true, but it is not the same.”
“Why?” The tree’s stentorian tone surprised Cain.
“Because taking my brother’s life is taking a human life.”
“A life is a life! Why did you protect me so, if you did not hold this to be true?” Cain’s heart leaped to his throat as he pondered the tree’s words. “If your brother Abel can take a life, then so can you.”
Cain jumped to his feet, nodding. He stared ahead––his blue eyes glittering with the prospect of revenge.
“Sacrifice your brother Abel so that you may walk in the light. Once Abel is gone, you shall grow mighty in your father’s eyes.”
Without another word Cain rushed to find his brother. He found him on a nearby hill tending after his sheep.
“Brother!” He called.
“I am here, among the sheep.” Abel’s long, golden hair a mess and flapping in the wind.
“You are always among the sheep. It is no wonder you smell like one.” Cain wore a mischievous expression. Abel chuckled until he saw his brother held a large rock in his powerful hand. He looked at his brother’s face, then at the rock, and then at Cain’s face again.
“That is a large, menacing rock you carry.” Abel’s voice was tremulous. “What do you intend to do with it?”
Cain gripped the rock until his knuckles turned white. He clenched his jaw and flared his nostrils.
Abel, who sat on the ground, climbed to his feet. He stared at him with wide eyes and took a step back.
Cain narrowed his eyes. He looked at his brother’s hooded russet eyes, at his messy hair and his sun-kissed skin. He puffed and slammed the rock on the ground. “What do you know of fear?” Cain turned and ran away.
He ran all the way back to the tree.
“I could not do it,” he said breathless. “I hate him. He is my brother and I hate the air he breathes, but I cannot kill him.”
“Do you remember the promise I made to you?”
“You promised to someday bear extraordinary fruit for me. What has this to do with my current circumstances?”
“Have you noticed the small flowers that have grown on my branches?”
“I have. Apologies, I have been meaning to compliment you on those, but so much has happened that––”
“Apologies are not necessary. I only mention them because in four weeks time a fruit will grow amidst each bloom. A remarkable fruit.”
“Remarkable in what way?”
“You bring your brother to me in four weeks time, and have him taste my fruit. One bite will accomplish what you could not.”
Cain returned home and was at his best behavior. He was obedient to his parents and kind to his brother. He must be pleasant and amicable toward his brother so that when the time came, he would not fear to follow him.
There was a consequence to Cain’s feigned behavior. As he became nicer to his family, it seemed to him that they too became more pleasant to be around. He began to enjoy his brother’s company and his parents’ new praises and attention. Being obedient to his parents and kind to his brother had its rewards. He was enjoying his time with them.
Four weeks flew by and the time had come to take Abel to the tree. Cain observed his brother as he protected and guided his sheep. Once more he felt remorse. He dragged his feet back to the tree.
“I have changed my mind,” Cain told the tree. “I know longer wish to see my brother’s life extinguished.
“It is too late now!” the tree bellowed, causing Cain’s head to ache. “He must taste the fruit I bear!”
Cain shook his head. “No! I no longer desire his death!”
“For years all you talked about was your hatred for your brother,” the tree said. “You spoke of your hatred for him while you watered me. You spoke of your hatred for him as you pulled weeds from around my roots. You said over and over again, as you pruned and cared for me, how your life would be so much better if your brother were not around!”
“Things are different now. I am an obedient son and a loving brother. Since I have been good, my parents show me more love and my brother is kind to me.”
“How long do you think this shall last? You are not being yourself right now. You are being who they want you to be, and the day you grow tired of being an imposter, they, too, shall go back to the old ways. Remember your parent’s preference for your brother. Remember how they all looked down on you, as if you were lesser than they.”
Cain’s heart grew heavy. His face and body slackened. He stared at the tree through eyes blurred with tears. “You are an evil tree and the fruit you bear is an abomination.”
“If I am evil, it is only because you have fed me the hatred that consumes you. The fruit I bear is a product of your hostility and your odium.”
Cain’s eyes opened wide, his breathing became shallow and erratic. He turned away from the tree, unable to stand its evil presence any longer. He ran as fast as his feet could carry him. When he arrived home he saw his mother watering the root vegetables he had planted for her.
“Mother!” he yelled. Eve jumped. “Where is my brother?”
“I do not know. He went looking for you.” Eve looked at him with confusion. “You look pale and distraught. Is there something wrong?”
“I must find him.” He hurried to the hill where Able spent most of his time with his sheep. He was not there. Instead, Adam tended the sheep.
“Father, where is Abel?” Cain asked. “I must speak to him.”
“Your brother went off to look for you. He said he would look for you by the river where he thought you would be tending your favorite tree.” Cain gasped and his legs faltered. He plopped onto his knees.
His father hurried over. “What is the matter, son?”
“Nothing, Father.” Cain clambered to his feet. “I have been running around looking for him, and I am a bit tired.”
Adam responded, but Cain did not hear his words, for his pulse beat loud and fast in his ears.
“I must go now, Father.” Cain hurried to the small paradise he had created by the river. Standing next to his tree was his brother, holding a half-eaten fruit in his hand.
“You did not tell me your tree has yielded fruit.” Abel smiled. “It is the sweetest and most succulent of all fruits.”
Cain approached him slowly, shaking his head––large tears falling from his eyes.
“Did you not catch the stench of evil and death that comes from this treacherous fruit?” Cain’s face was marked with anguish.
Abel flinched and dropped what remained of the fruit to the ground. His face turned ashen and he dropped to all fours. He sat on his haunches, and his tongue wagged out of his mouth. He rocked back and forth. His mouth foamed and he held his hands in front of him like paws. Then he ran around in circles on all fours, making growling noises and tearing plants apart with his teeth before eating them. He approached his brother and sniffed him.
Cain retreated from him, his face twisted in disgust. “He is wild, eats grass and runs around on all fours. He is mad and has the mind of an animal.” Cain’s face was red with rage. “Why have you done this?”
“It is what you desired,” the tree said. “You could not kill him because he was human, but now he is but a mere animal. Kill him. Or do you prefer he live like this for the rest of his existence?”
“No!” Cain shook his head as his heart pounded.
Abel continued to growl and paw at him.
Cain stared at him. Tears flooded his face. Abel was human only in appearance. He saw that now. He could not allow his brother to go on like this, and he would not put his parents through the shame of watching their beloved son walk on all fours and eat grass. He would do what he must in order to make this right.
He grabbed a large jagged rock and walked over to Abel. He lifted the rock over his head. “Goodbye, brother.” Cain brought the rock down on his head again and again until his brother’s skull became one with the ground, and his warm blood covered his face and hands and colored the verdant grass red.
Cain saw what he had done and shouted to the heavens as he pulled the hair out of his head. “My brother’s blood calls out for revenge, so punish me, oh God! I deserve your worst. But before you do, please, allow me to watch the destruction of this evil tree. I implore you!”
The earth rumbled and the sky turned an ominous dark grey. Large black clouds swirled across the heavens, colliding with each other. Deafening thunderclaps made the ground tremble. A jagged lightning bolt ripped through the sky and speared the tree, turning it to ash.
Copyright © 2014 by Vashti Quiroz-Vega. All rights reserved.
Colleen Chesebro is a writer, poet, and book reviewer. She hosts an inspiring event every Wednesday on her blog, Silver Threading, called Writer’s Quote Wednesday. Anyone can participate by choosing a quote by a favorite writer and posting it on your blog.