Today I self-published my first eBook, Epoch: A Retelling of the first Six Chapters of Genesis. It’s available for download as an eBook for 3.99 on Lulu.com. At just under 30 pages in length, it’s a quick, fun romp through the various ancient folklore related to the Fall of Man and the war between Satan and God.
For you, my lovely readers, I’m providing a sneak peak: the first chapter of the story.
In a great gust of wind was the first man formed. His body was, at first, a lifeless husk, scarcely distinguishable from the dusty environment upon which it settled when at last the gusting ceased.
Just then, a second breeze ensued, filling the dust-caked nostrils of the fleshy vessel. It cleared the earthen film that settled in his lungs, and with a thunderous cough, the vessel, propelled by an internal force, sat upright and coughed. Naked and hairless, the fully-formed man, dubbed Adam by his Creator, awoke to a splendor when the winds again subsided.
The land before him, cradled between two massive, crystalline rivers, was rich with vegetation and animal life Goats grazed openly upon the plentiful grass, sheep bleated noisily as they pockmarked the verdant plane, and birds converged upon the treetops and sang a rich chorus.
As Adam drew his first solitary breath, the smell of aromatic resin shocked his senses. His retinas adjusted to the blinding light only after much initial, eye-watering distress.
“Welcome to the world,” came a booming voice.
Adam was afraid. He rose quickly to his feet and glanced about.
“Do not fear; I am your Benevolent Creator, and I have formed you from the dirt to reign sovereign over this land.”
Adam fell to his knees and ducked his head reverently before the Voice of God. He glanced over his shoulder when he heard footsteps approaching. He rose and turned to face a magnificent sight – woman, as fully-formed and hairless as he. The two were scarcely distinguishable, save for their gendered anatomy.
“This is Lilith. She was formed of the dirt, like you. As every other beast has a mate, so too shall you.”
The two observed each other in silence.
“You both shall tend to the plants and animals of this land,” continued God. “And in exchange, you are permitted to eat the fruit of every plant bearing seed, and the meat and milk of every creature you shepherd. There is only one exception.”
A lone cloud obscured the sun, localizing a ray of sunlight upon a lone-standing tree, which kept vigil over the highest hill between the rivers. Its leaves were weighted down with upside-down flowers in a conic shape, some of whose four petals had parted to reveal small, green fruits covered in spines.
“This is the Tree of Knowledge,” God explained. “You are not to eat the fruit of this tree, or else you will die.”
“Die?” Adam asked, perplexed.
“Yes. Death is an end to all things.”
Though Adam did not fully understand, he chose not to question.
Lilith had considerably less restraint. “Lord, what lies beyond the rivers?”
“This land is called Eden, and it is My Paradise on Earth. Its borders are these rivers – they are called the Tigris and Euphrates. There is nothing for you beyond them, my child; only Death resides there.
“Now go, my children,” added God, “and do as I have commanded.”
Although man and woman’s first steps into their new Paradise were clumsy and awkward, they were bravely taken, for all of the world was new to these two fresh creatures. Adam endeavored to shepherd the animals of the land, with limited success at first, and Lilith busied herself harvesting the fruit of every plant in Eden – except the Tree of Knowledge, which both diligently avoided … The way they avoided one another.
The two hadn’t uttered a word to one another yet, as they were both perfectly content to perform God’s task without assistance or company.
Adam observed his herded goats congregating into family units. Some had already busied themselves multiplying, generating children who, as Adam had not long before, entered the world in confusion, but were consoled by their parents, the gods of their own creation. He noted how the beasts whose genital anatomy most closely resembled his were often tasked with the defense of the entire tribe, and he felt this illuminated somewhat his function as a man. It saddened Adam to consider disrupting these families with his own incessant need for sustenance – Death, after all, sounded dreadful – so in his hunger (and in no small measure, his loneliness) he sought out his companion in the wilds.
Lilith, on the other hand, observed the way the plants of Eden were all interconnected by an elaborate system of roots that, when she dug just beneath the surface, extended many arms’ length in every direction. She noted the way these green-faced creatures interconnected with the soil beneath them and contemplated her own connection to these beasts, having herself sprung from the earth like a sapling. As she ruminated over this, she came upon a herd of goats plucking berries off of the branches of a bush between their teeth; when she followed suit and popped one of the flavorful fruits into her mouth, she found it delicious and decided to gather more of them in her palm.
By the time Adam found her, some time had transpired. Hair had sprouted all over his body – his chest, his arms, his legs, his face and his head. Upon her, it had only grown at length upon the crown of her skull. The presentation only rendered her appearance all the more arresting, for when she turned to regard him as he called out her name, her long mane billowed in the wind, a flag of God’s presence.
“Are you hungry?” she asked, presenting her palmful of berries.
Adam licked his lips. “Yes.”
Lilith plucked a berry from the pile with her free hand and held it between two fingers. “Open your mouth.”
Adam stood still with his mouth agape. Lilith, closing the distance between them, dropped the berry between his lips.
“What did you learn in your travels?” She asked.
“I have learned from the ram that as man and sovereign, my duty to this land is that of protector,” he explained. “As the ram brandishes horns in defense of his lineage, so too shall I guard you.”
Lilith chuckled. This response perplexed him.
“Sweet Adam, I need no guardian!” She announced. “What is there to defend me from here in Paradise?”
He frowned. “… I hadn’t thought of that.”
Lilith offered him another berry. He accepted it. “Consider instead the plants; how they co-mingle in a vast, all-encompassing blanket of self-sustaining life. There is no sovereign among plants; they root wherever they are able. As we are of the dirt, like the plants, I propose our purpose here is likewise.”
Adam shook his head. “No, no — that’s absurd. We’re nothing like the plants!” He insisted. “The plants are static; they just allow anything to stroll by and nourish itself of their fruit. What kind of existence is that?”
Lilith raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong with giving back to the environment from which you sprang?”
“The Lord God declared us sovereign,” Adam explained, folding his arms. “Keepers of this land. We are not a part of it; we are above it.”
This disturbed Lilith somewhat, but she allowed it to pass. “I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
This disturbed Adam even more.
The days in Eden were long, and though the Lord God had not yet created rain, the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates kept the soil arable. Lilith shared her observations of the plants with Adam, who derived from that knowledge a practical understanding of farming. With his manual labor and Lilith’s cunning, the first plot of land was tilled and sprinkled with seeds. In little time at all, it sprang into a lush pocket of foliage from which a king’s bounty of fruit was harvested.
In exchange, Adam shared his observations of the animals with Lilith, who left fruits and berries in large pockets so as to attract goats and sheep. From these early herds, Adam learned to milk his livestock for sustenance.
The Lord observed His creations’ hard work, and He was pleased.
But there was trouble brewing in Paradise. One day, in Lilith’s absence, Adam went down on both knees, clasped his hands together, and requested the counsel of God.
“Yes, my son,” He replied, “What troubles you?”
“Lord, both Lilith and I have toiled to carry out Your will. And in doing so, I have seen the animals couple and mate, and in doing so bear offspring. I have seen the offspring suckle at the teat of their mother, and be protected from harm by their father. The animals submit to this order without instruction. However, the woman You have created for me does not heed this beckon call as I do. She desires only solitude, and to appease her curiosity. But I desire her.”
“Then you must claim her,” God instructed. “And your rightful place as sovereign of the land. If she does not obey, she will be cursed. This you may tell her.”
Adam frowned. “I don’t want to curse her, God. I want her to like me.”
“Your function is not to be liked,” God replied, “But to follow My word as I have spoken it – and it has been spoken. Do you understand?”
He did not. “Yes, Lord.”
Adam tracked Lilith down some time later as she attended her duties in her new garden. “I come with a gift,” he announced, which attracted her attention from her work.
“A gift?” She replied, perplexed.
Adam presented a flower he’d plucked during his shepherding. It was a multitude of brilliant colors, although its petals were already beginning to dry out having been rended from its roots and consigned to eventually wilt. This Lilith recognized, and it made her cry in despair.
“What have you done?!” Rising abruptly to her feet, she snatched the flower from his hands, fell to her knees, and wept.
Adam, wrought with guilt, could only watch. “I-I don’t understand — what’s wrong?”
“You killed it,” she moaned. “It was beautiful, and you killed it! You brought Death into Eden!”
“It still is beautiful,” he protested, kneeling by her in a last-ditch reconciliatory effort. “It reminded me of you. I thought you’d like it.”
“Get away from me!” She snapped, clutching the flower to her chest. “You’re a monster!”
With that, she fled into the wilderness, leaving Adam alone to stew in rejection.
Lilith knelt before the bank of the Tigris. From beyond it, she observed an arid, sandy wasteland extending well beyond the horizon.
She placed the wilted flower into the water and watched it lazily drift off. As it sank beneath the surface, she pondered the question of Death. The flower, plucked from its roots, had died in her hands, so she felt the only appropriate place to put it was in the barrier between Paradise and the Death that resided beyond. She found its drifting in the river to be peaceful. Was that what Death was like – a gentle tug into the Unknown?
Adam approached from beyond, maintaining a respectful distance. “Lilith –”
She peered venomously over her shoulder. “I told you to go away.”
The added rejection only stang worse. He allowed his hurt to manifest as anger. “I spoke to the Lord,” he began. “If you do not make yourself more agreeable to me, He will curse you.”
She rose to her feet and placed her hands on her hips in defiance. “Then let Him curse me! I would rather be cursed in His eyes than perfect in your’s!”
When Adam felt he couldn’t feel more unwanted, Lilith upped the ante. He recoiled, aghast. “You don’t mean that.”
“I do,” she hissed. “Besides, we were both made of the earth; why do you not make yourself more agreeable to me?”
“I am man,” he declared, taking steps closer. “Sovereign and ruler of this land. You are my woman, and you will obey me. The Lord has commanded it!” He gripped her arm and pulled her closer. Lilith struggled against his grip.
“Never!” She wrenched herself free, raised her hand in the air, and invoked His Holy Name. From her back sprang a massive pair of feathered wings. With a thunderous flap, they elevated her off of the ground.
“I curse you, Adam!” She roared. “I curse you for the rest of your miserable existence! And to You, Lord, who has cursed me for this so-called ‘defiance’ – I spit upon Your name!”
With a mighty shriek, Lilith flew beyond the Tigris into the certain Death beyond.
As Lilith trekked deeper into the desert, the heat of the sun searing her skin, she sought refuge in a cave hollowed out of the side of a jagged rock formation. Alone in the dark, Lilith wept into her hands.
“Sweet creature, why are you crying?” A dulcet voice pierced the silence.
Lilith lifted her face from her palms. As the cave was pitch black, this was an exercise in futility. “Who goes there?” “I’ve been following you for some time,” it continued, coming closer. “You look exhausted.”
Lilith furrowed her eyebrows. “What does this mean, ‘exhausted?’”
“It means you need to rest.” The voice took on a whisper. “Close your eyes and let your senses dull.”
“I don’t trust you,” she sniffled. “I don’t trust anyone anymore.”
“I understand, sweet creature. I saw what Adam did to you … And what Yahweh has made of you.”
At this, Lilith’s interest was piqued. “You know the name of the Lord?”
“And He knows Mine. Perhaps you’ve heard of Me.”
Lilith’s face blanched. “No … No!” Terrified, she backed against the wall.
“Yes – it is I, Death. I have come to deliver you from your suffering.”
“Stay back!” She shrieked.
“Why do you fear me?” The voice sounded wounded. “I’m here to help you.”
“I know of Your vile trade,” she replied. “You are an end to all things.”
“You are young for this world. You have not learned yet that endings are merely periods of transition. There is a world beyond the one you’ve left; you have only to discover it. Which is why I’m here.”
Standing before her suddenly was a beautiful man, His body and face hairless and smooth like her’s, but strong and masculine in proportion like Adam’s. Upon His back fanned a pair of webbed, clawed wings, and upon His forehead protruded the horns of a ram. He carried a piece of wood in his hand, upon which a mighty flame nursed, bringing light to the pitch black.
“Do you fear Me still, now that you have seen?”
Lilith gradually stood and approached the handsome stranger. “Not anymore.”
He remained still as she extended a hand to touch his chest, as hard and glossy as a stone smoothed by the river. He extended His free hand to guide her other hand to join in explorative caresses. When both her hands were occupied, He draped His arm around her waist and brought her against Him. She did not resist His advances; rather, gently seduced by His voice, she initiated further intimacy.
In short time, assisted by the light of His torch, Lilith discovered earthy pleasure with the assistance of her mysterious new Patron – a pleasure that engaged all five of her senses, seeding a Paradise within her.
Adam sought solace in his work and the company of his flock, but nothing could distract him from the ache in his heart. The loneliness alone was not so poisonous as the knowledge that she was repulsed by him. But he did not seek the Lord. To do so would be to admit his failure as sovereign of the kingdom of Paradise, for one of his subjects had fled.
However, Adam could not conceal his failure for long. Indeed, it had never been a secret; the Lord saw all that transpired in His garden. Seeing that His child would not seek Him out willingly, the Lord appeared to him as he was tending his flock. “Where has your woman gone?”
Adam hung his head in shame. “Lord, she has spurned my advances and fled the Garden. I have failed you.”
The Lord was furious – but not with him. “My child, you are without blame, for you have followed My instruction. It is the woman, the harpy Lilith, who has disobeyed Me!”
“It wasn’t her fault,” Adam protested. “I tried to appease her, but only offended her.”
“It is not her place to be offended,” declared God. “It is her place to obey her Lord. Upon My instruction, she was to submit to you, and she refused. But worry not, My child, for she will be returned to you. If she refuses again, her children shall all be consigned to Death!”
“Lord, please — let her be. I do not wish to cause her more harm!”
“I have spoken!”
Adam feared for his well-being, and so did not resist the Lord any further.
Lilith was, by now, swollen with child. She went on to survey the surrounding landscape, although quite burdened.
Though it was cracked, dry earth in long stretches beyond, her trek through the barren wastes would not go unrewarded, for beyond was an expanse of marshland from which she could harvest the bounty of the ocean. It was a magnificent sight, the likes of which she’d never seen before: a body of water so massive it dwarfed the Tigris and Euphrates to which she had grown accustomed. The plants which grew here were far removed from those in Eden, and Lilith spent her days happily studying them. She was never lonely, for Death was her constant companion, lovingly imploring her to rest when her intrepid chartering of the land exhausted her.
Then the Lord’s angels appeared, three in number. They came first as balls of light like the stars of the heavens, then drew closer, which alarmed Lilith of the coming danger. In the defense of her unborn child, she retreated to her new home among the reeds.
“Lilith, Wife of Adam!” They proclaimed from beyond her roost. “The Lord has demanded your return to Eden. If you resist, your children shall be cursed with Death!”
“Ha!” At this, Lilith emerged from her roost. Her extended company with Death morphed her into one of His kindred; her wings, formerly feathered and lovely like the angels’, were now webbed and reptilian. The skin on her hands and feed had hardened into sharp, scaled talons. Death had equipped her with the tools she needed to defend her progeny. “I do not fear Death. I am Death!”
The angels, horrified by her transformation, recoiled at the sight of her.
“Death is my lover, and I shall spread His word among the children of Adam until he sees at last the error of his ways!”
At this, one of the angels stepped forward, taking the form of a man. Like Death, he was beautiful; however, he boasted the white, feathered wings emblematic of the Lord. His head was crowned with flaxen hair, whose golden sheen matched the color of the saber he held in his right hand. Knowing her weakness, he spoke to her in the language to which she’d grown accustomed. “Step forward, Lilith, that we may speak as equals.”
“I am not your equal yet, angel, for I know not your name.”
“I am Raphael, the Divine Healer.”
“Then tell me, Raphael,” Lilith began, sauntering out of the cave, “how do you plan to change my mind?”
“Is that possible?” He retorted, folding his arms.
Lilith smirked. “I suppose not.”
“Then the solution seems obvious, does it not? Let us compromise.”
“There is nothing to compromise,” she hissed. “Adam will pay.”
“Your grievance is with Adam, yes? Then must his children suffer for the sin of their father?” Raphael countered. “Does your child deserve to suffer for your sins? On that subject you have made your opinion very clear. So why are Adam’s progeny any different?”
Lilith frowned pensively.
Raphael drew a sigil in the dirt with the tip of his saber. “This is my holy emblem,” he explained. “If any child bears this mark, you must stay your hand. In return, I will tell the Lord we came too late to save you.”
Lilith canted her head skeptically. “The Lord sees all. How can you deceive Him?”
“Before you were created, the Lord discovered Earth and recognized its potential as a possible domain. But Earth already hosted a myriad of ills whose sovereignty went unquestioned, chief among them Death. So the Lord struck an accord with Death, and in doing so, created Paradise on Earth as it is in Heaven through Eden. Within this pocket of Bliss, the Lord reigns supreme. Only when mankind extends the borders of Paradise under the Lord’s instruction will His Sovereignty spread. And spread it will, my lady,” he added gravely. “I have foreseen it.”
“You would have me return to Eden and become a pawn in the Lord’s petty ploy for power?” She replied, stunned.
Raphael visibly bristled. “This is no mere gambit for land holdings. The fate of the entire universe depends upon this plan coming to fruition!”
“I’ve heard enough,” she growled. “I shall abide your terms, angel, so long as you cease talking! Begone from my sight, or Death shall pursue you back to Eden from whence you came!”
Raphael’s image began to fade. “As you wish,” he replied.
Though Adam knew no exhaustion – no such suffering occurred within Paradise – a supernatural languish muddled his thoughts, his movements, his mind, until its only appeasement was curling beneath a tree and drifting into slumber. The Lord sedated him and removed one of his ribs, and from this rib he crafted a new wife, whose origins would ensure her future subservience. He made her even lovelier than Lilith, with fulsome breasts, wide hips, and gentle features.
When Adam awoke, there stood his new woman, calmly milking a ewe in preparation for her husband’s awakening.
“Who are you?” He asked, alarmed but intrigued. She bowed her head submissively. “I am whatever you call me, sovereign. The Lord has created me to deliver you from loneliness, and so I shall.” She raised a bowl formed of clay, in which the warm milk was served. “Just as you drink from this earthenware bowl, so may you one day drink of the milk of my vessel, and from it may you bear many healthy children.”
Adam, thoroughly disturbed, remained apart from her. “This isn’t right.”
The woman lifted her head. “Is something wrong, master?”
“Please — don’t call me that. The Lord is my Master. I am just a man.”
“You are not merely a man,” she replied, setting the bowl aside. “You are my husband and sovereign, and I exist to love and serve you.”
“Stop it!” he protested.
The woman obeyed. The wounded look on her face reminded him of Lilith, and his heart bled.
“I’m sorry,” he replied softly. “Please don’t cry.”
She rubbed the corners of her eyes.
An awful realization dawned upon him. This woman was the Lord’s replacement for Lilith. That meant she was lost forever to the wilds beyond Eden. Grief overtook him, but he did not reveal it, so as not to upset his lovely new bride. “This is all … A surprise to me.”
“And to me, my love,” she replied, smiling weakly. “But the Lord has spoken, and we must obey.”
“Yes …” He averted his eyes. “So we must.”
“Something troubles you, my love.”
Lilith’s time in the wastes had hardened her disposition, but Death saw through all her armor. “Yes.”
He appeared behind her, His hands on her shoulders, and breathed into her neck. “Talk to me.”
“You are kind to me, and soon the fruits of our love will blossom,” she explained, resting her hand on her full belly. “But still I miss Adam.”
“After what he did to you? Why?”
“He was all I knew before this place. I suppose I just yearn for a simpler time.”
“Simple is an illusion.”
Lilith turned to face him. “What do you mean?”
“Things are in motion beyond your understanding. I have seen them. And for them to progress, Adam cannot be alone.”
“But he is. I left him.”
Death shook his head.
Lilith narrowed her eyes. “I don’t understand.”
“I can show you, but I fear it will only upset you.”
Her gaze hardened with resolve. “All the more reason for me to know.”
“Then know you shall. Come.”
This much could be said for Lilith: she was a self-motivated woman. Driven by her own desire to learn, Lilith wandered on her own into the wilderness, and her meaningful contributions to both of their understanding of nature assisted in the fulfillment of their God-given purpose. Adam’s new bride, however, followed him like a newborn kid follows a ewe. He found her constant attention smothering. It took him a long time to receive her advances, and when he did, he found them flattering. Possessed of a childlike fascination with everything he did, his new wife made him feel like the sovereign the Lord told him he was.
After a long day of shepherding, Adam took refuge under a tree, where he ate a handful of berries. His wife emerged from behind the tree, having plucked and woven flowers in her hair. Among them was a familiar variety – the multi-colored flower he’d gifted to Lilith, only to be spurned.
“Why have you plucked those flowers?” He asked.
She raked her fingers through her hair, preening herself. “I thought you’d find me more appealing if I made myself beautiful. So I decorated myself with beautiful things.” She shrank slightly. “Does that displease you?”
“No,” he replied, forcing a smile. “You do look beautiful – with or without the flowers.”
Her cheeks flushed. “May I sit?”
She took a seat beside him in the grass, her waist-length hair flowing over her shoulder. She fiddled with it.
Adam plucked a single berry from his palm. “Are you hungry?”
“A little, yes,” she admitted.
“Open your mouth.”
He popped the fruit into her mouth. As she chewed, a bead of juice pooled from the corner of her lips and dripped down her chin. When this failed to clear the last of it, he cupped her cheek in his palm and ran his tongue along the path it left, sampling the flavor both of the fruit and her smooth skin. Having allowed his beard to grow out, his facial hair tickled her neck. She giggled demurely into her palm.
Adam coaxed her onto her back, where she helpfully splayed her legs open and guided him between them.
Lilith followed Death into the marshland. He guided her waist-deep into an acrid pool of muck. Once there, she was instructed to recite His secret Unholy name, the way she had invoked the name of the Lord,
to perform a scrying ritual.
With this first act of sorcery, Lilith was granted the ability to see far distances. From her roost far east of Eden, the waters before her swirled, revealing an image that caused her stomach to turn: Adam consummating his marriage to his new wife.
Lilith clasped her talon over her mouth and suppressed a moan. As quickly as she had been expelled and hunted down by the Lord, she had been forgotten about.
The Dark Mistress, Bane of Children, knelt into the muck and wept into her hands.
“Do you see now?” Death asked, consoling her with an embrace from behind.
“I don’t understand,” she sobbed. “Was my existence so meaningless to him? Am I so easily replaced?”
“The Lord cares not for the suffering of the individual,” Death explained, His sweet voice soothing her heartache. “He cares only for the continuation of His Grand Design. It is as I said: for His Design to progress, Adam cannot be without a wife. You were an error in His plan He saw fit to correct.”
In that moment, Lilith understood at last the magnitude of her sin against the Lord. “I have been a fool,” she replied, breathless. “For Adam is not my enemy. It is the Lord who has conspired against me!”
“Then your revelation is complete.” Death dispersed the scrying well.
Lilith, enraged, rose to her full height and flexed her talons with want of something to shred. “This affront cannot go unpunished!”
“I promise you it will not.”
Lilith’s rage subsided momentarily. “You have a plan?”
“Yes, my love. And you are a key component.” Death laid His hand upon her stomach and gave her a knowing smile. “Through our unholy offspring, you shall have your revenge. And it shall be just as brutal and savage as you desire.”
Lilith embraced her lover. “Make it so, and my love for you shall know no equal!”
“As my Dark Mistress commands.”
To read more, purchase the eBook at Lulu.com.