The Garden of Eden

From the Story Arc: Finding the way home

Next Story in the Arc: Lost by Arch Angel X (Thursday, June 16, 2005)

(posted Thursday, June 09, 2005)

Eden’s bountiful display of flowering trees and shrubs presented a glorious array of color and textures, for only one season existed in the perfect world of Eden: eternal summer. The Angels were inexorably attracted to it.

Xavier, one of the Arch Angels sworn to defend heaven, had a particular fascination with its tranquility. Often he would wander through the open fields of grass. Placing his hands palm down he would let the tops of the grass stalks gently glide across his skin. The sun was gentle as it warmed his upturned face. The slight gust of wind played with his long golden hair. The sound of water burbling over smooth rocks reminded him of pleasant chiming.

“Why would anyone or anything ever want to leave this place?”

He had traveled further this day, along a dirt path lined with willow trees. A powerful gust of wind swept through Eden, the Garden, and the forest. The Willow branches parted like a curtain, revealing a place he not yet ventured into. Unseen for so many years, a shallow cave, and an ancient portion of Eden had become filthy and decrepit; the dusty cobwebs are as old and forgotten as the stones piled in the dark corners. Locked, cracked, and curiously out-of-place, a door that bore ancient text painted boldly on it like a warning, in red letters stood at the back of it.

“Where did this come from?” No one had ever spoken of a door such as this. “How peculiar”; he thought to himself, that there would be such a door tucked away in the darkness.

Surely he thought, others had at least noticed the door.

One day he had tried to ask wise Seraphic Flame, a Seraphim, about the door while trying to sound casual.

“Have you ever been down the old dirt path in the farthest reaches of Eden?” he had asked while picking through a bowl of fruit sitting on a table.

Without looking up from her parchment that she busily wrote upon, she had replied, “Yes I have Xavier, it is beautiful place, the willow tress are quite lovely.”

“Yes, it is beautiful. They are such wonderful trees” he had laughed, then continued while nonchalantly stabbing holes in the fruit with a small dagger, “but that door hidden in the cave at the base of the mountain, where does it lead?”

Bestowing him with a quick, confused glance before returning to her writings, Flame had inquired, “What door?”

“The one with strange symbols painted on it.”

“What are you talking about? There is no door like that in all of Eden. And I should know; I helped make those mountains”.

“Oh, well, uh...” he trailed off. Before Flame could get too suspicious, he had promptly changed the subject to something he knew she deemed more deserving of her attention: Mankind. How she loved to speak about them! He never even tried to ask anyone else about the door, as he was afraid that others would find out and forbid anyone from going into the mountain. If he were banned from the old mountain before finding out what was behind that oh-so-intriguing door, he would end up with a nervous tic from curiosity-overflow.

Xavier turned to leave, Seraphic Flame stopped him “What, exactly, are you up to Xavier?”

Looking up to meet her gleaming, yellow eyes, he replied innocently and truthfully, “Just going for a walk. There is no harm in that---is there?”

“No, but you are up to something. I can see it—you cannot fool me. I believe you’re venturing back to the cave ---are you? Just keep safe.”

“What are you talking about? There’s nothing up there but dust and stone, just like you said.”

“Mind me, Xavier,” she paused for emphases, “Some doors shouldn’t be opened. Some doors are locked for a reason.”

Before he could ask, argue, or even get another word out, she turned around and sauntered back down the hill in another of the odd costumes she favored. Mulling over the abrupt conversation, he thought her words were more pleading than threatening. Then again, he never knew what she meant. He gave himself one last chance to back out, and turned the offer down.

On his excursions to the door, he had never noticed any signs of previous visitors. In fact, the air there hung still, and a musty odor always lingered. Only his footprints were fresh in the thick carpet of dust.

He placed his ear to the door. Barely audible, yet understandable, he thought he heard the tinkling of water and the rustling of wind blowing through a tall grass field. He even dared a peek into the keyhole. Suddenly, he became aware of the acute silence surrounding him and the way his heart pounded fiercely against his ribs as if to escape its enclosure. Taking a quick breath, he ducked down and gazed into the keyhole to see…nothing. Something was blocking it.

Finally, he decided to clear the keyhole—after all; her words were vague and did she really know there was a door here? He stopped in front of the door for a few last thoughts. Should he venture on? On the other hand, should he heed the advice given to him just hours earlier?

Approaching the door, he forgot about the dust and got down on one knee. From a small brown pouch, he pulled out a rusty tool. He received it from one of the Angels, a souvenir from one of his more recent trips to visit humanity. He called the tool an awl. The shaft of the awl fit perfectly in the dark keyhole and he began to maneuver it around inside the lock. After a series of dinks and clanks, the awl pushed through suddenly and he heard a soft thud from the other side of the door. Jerking the awl back in haste, it flew from his hands, skittered across the grimy floor and thudded against the opposite wall. Forgetting the awl’s very existence, his attention focused on the now-clear keyhole.

Leaning forward he began to try to examine what was on the other side. Through the keyhole wafted a perfume of lilacs, honeysuckle, and summer breeze. Before he could hesitate, he peeked inside. The keyhole gave view to a grassy meadow edged by flowering bushes. Running horizontal across his field of vision, a small gurgling creek flowed. A few handfuls of downy clouds swam lazily across the turquoise sky.

“With a paradise like that, why would this door be--- locked?” It seemed nothing more than another part of Eden, as perfect as the part behind him.

Reluctantly, he pulled his eye from the keyhole and blinked a few times. How long had he been enthralled by the view, he did not know, but it felt like hours. Forgetting the pleading cries of pain from his neck, back, and knees, he contemplated about how to unlock the door. Then he recalled the thud he had heard when he had shoved the awl through.

Now he was positive it was the key that had fallen on the other side of the door. Scrambling, he snatched up the awl. In the back of his mind, he heard the voice of Seraphic Flame echo in his mind “Some doors are meant to stay locked”. He shook his head wondering if he was hearing things. He bent the tip at an angle on the floor; shortly he had succeeded in gouging the dusty stone and, more importantly, curving the awl to resemble a hook.

He began to carefully work the improvised hook to the right, sliding it an inch at a time. Just as he was about to doubt, his logic…clank! First lifting, and then turning the hook, he pulled down and back. Dragging the key, he slid the bent awl out from under the door. For a second, the key or the hook caught on something, and then he had it! The key stuck out from beneath the door, caught on a few broken blades of grass. In one sweep, he seized the key and flung the awl aside.

For a moment he simply sat and gazed at the key. It was very plain. In his hand rested a piece of shaped and cut copper tinged green from age. Shrugging at its unexpectedly commonplace nature, he thrust the key into the keyhole. As he began to turn the key, he almost thought he heard an imaginary drum roll rumbling softly yet building in intensity the further he turned the key. Click. No flash of light. No hallelujah chorus from the heavens. A bit disappointed, he removed the key, turned the dusty knob, and tentatively pulled open the mystery door. A ray of sunlight plunged through the opening as a playful breeze stirred up the dust in the corridor. After a swift look-around to make sure the coast was clear, he eased around the open door and slipped inside. Before he went any further, he pushed the door closed and locked it, leaving the key in the lock.

Inhaling until his lungs felt as if they would burst from his chest, he filled himself with sweet summer air.

“What was there to fear here?” he spoke quietly as he looked over his newly found paradise.

Then his thoughts swiftly changed as skies darkened at the horizon.

Darkness crept over the world…

That was the second thing he noticed. The first was the silence… the wind was quiet, the surf stilled, even the rainstorm was distant and hushed. The darkness, like the silence, wasn’t absolute; it was more gray than black. But it was still unlike anything he’d ever experienced, before… before…

Before what…?

The wind grew stronger, and the trees bowed before it. The darkness deepened, his vision blinded by the brilliant arcs of lightning. A force accompanied the wind, and swept them up and out of the concealing forest and into the clearing.

Xavier longed for the warmth of the Sun as the wind chilled his skin. The ground felt hard and cold beneath his bare feet as he concealed himself in the underbrush. Deepening shadows filled the woods, shadows his eyes could no longer penetrate.

Xavier suddenly felt alone, for the first time he felt scared, it was a strange new emotion that he could not comprehend. As the hell in heaven’s clothing surrounded him, he realized the real origin of the door. It was meant as a warning…not an invitation.

Xavier whispered "God, speak to me" and a meadowlark sang. But he did not hear. So Xavier shouted "God speak to me!" And the thunder rolled across the sky, but he did not listen. Xavier looked around and said, "God let me see you" and a star shone brightly through the darkness but he did not notice. Xavier shouted, "God show me a miracle" and a life was born, but he did not know. Again Xavier cried out in despair, "Touch me God and let me know that you are here!" Whereupon God reached down and touched him. But he brushed the butterfly away and continued to hide.

There was an absence of feelings: No pain, no fear, and no regret… very odd. His point of view shifted, changed; he was no longer at ground level, but above, somehow… It was different, and strange… but not unexpected. He neither questioned the phenomena, nor gave it any consideration or thought, other than it just was.

“You have no image of my form…”

The ‘voice’ sounded distinctly in his mind, and he shook his head, not understanding. “Your form? What…are you?” His thoughts, it seemed, were known, for he had not spoken in the physical sense.

“I am an angel---well I was---once long ago”.

Awareness came gradually, he was himself again, at the edge of the forest, and it was as if he could discern shapes and colors while everything else outside his immediate range of perception blurred and faded into a grayish-white fog. The ground beneath him was rocky, the sand dark from the heavy rainfall. Then he saw a being; something emerging from the forest.

As Xavier approached, concern overcoming his apprehension, as the dark angel’s head rose slowly, and his eyes found those of his own. Xavier halted in mid-step, icy threads of fear chilling his being, and the dark angels gaze all but seared him on the spot.

Dark eyes, dark hair, and dark skin; its armor was a deep grey, its wings black. Slightly taller than Xavier, with a heavier built with broad, muscular shoulders and arms.

The dark Angel stood at stiff attention, his gaze turning in Xavier’s direction.

“God is not here today Xavier, but I am. He has left you, but I am here. God does not need you anymore, but I do. I have followed you for some time now, I know everything about you. I know that you are upset with your standing amongst the angels. You have not been given your rank in the angelic hierarchy as you deserve, and this makes you upset doesn’t it?”

Xavier hung his head low and replied, “I can’t say that it doesn’t anger me some”.

“Yes---anger---I feel your pain, use it, use your emotions, hate, anger will make you stronger. They are not weaknesses use them and only when you do can unleash them, then you will take control of your destiny”.

“My destiny? ---I am afraid I do not understand”.

Before the dark angel could explain a bright white light formed just behind him, not quite as tall, but his darkness could not penetrate the light.

“So they send a Seraphim---you must be of even more importance then I have perceived”.

Seraphic Flame stood behind the angel; your yellow eyes began to glow like ambers in a fire.

“Your foul presence is not wanted upon this world of God’s creation, fallen one. You will quit this place, and leave this Archangel unharmed. He has not accepted you”.

“You say the words very nicely, Seraphim; but very ineffectively – he has offered his soul to me. You are the one to leave!”

“I am his Guardian, sent by God to remain at his side. I will not leave by your command”.

“Very well, then, if you insist…”

And it was as if something inside him rose up in revolt. Xavier began to convulse and go into shock; he began to shake his head violently and scream “No! No! No!” over and over.

The rain subsided and the darkness moved back to the forest. The sun began to peak through the clouds and warm the very ground again.

And yet, at the same time, he had not moved; his revolt was entirely internal, as his body remained frozen in place.

“I see you could not avoid its temptation---could you?”

He was startled at first to see to his right the Seraphim whose warning he had not heeded sitting upon a rock. He almost jumped out of his armored boots when he heard her voice.

“Wait---you mean you knew about this all along?” She nodded her head. “The why---why would you tell me you knew nothing of it? Was this some sort of test?”

“Yes Xavier, a test of will, a test of wants and desires.”

“So I guess I failed---“.

“You have Free Will. Moreover, a purpose---“.

“Purpose? What purpose?!” He felt no anger, only a certainty of knowing, “Look at my life …what there was of it. You know… At no point in time did I ever make any real difference. Nothing I ever did was of any importance… not the lasting kind, the meaningful kind; certainly not enough to… justify my existence or my continuing it…” There was no self-pity in the words. He seemed incapable of any emotion; of feeling anything – as if the numbing void enveloped him.

“Come---I want to show you something”. In an instant they were floating down to earth, landing on the roof of a skyscraper.

“I do not like this place, Flame.” Xavier landed a short distance from the Seraphim. “Do you not find it disconcerting to be here?”

“Perhaps I should have been more specific, for that is exactly what I am trying to point out. That worship you despise so is not to be given to Mankind, but accepted from them. We do not ‘worship’ this piece of Creation. We serve it, but we do not worship it.”

“I do not interpret God’s Decree to serve Mankind as you construed it. I do not worship Adam or Eve; I only obey their commands. As I obey Michael’s commands, verbal or implied.” Defiance crept through his tone. He hesitated; his disagreement stemmed not from defiance, but a difference of opinion. “There is no need for us to remain here any longer,” Xavier guided the conversation and the Seraphim in the direction he wanted. “I had thought you might be angry with me for some reason, and did not want to risk causing a scene in Heaven.”

“I am not angry with you Xavier, although I am concerned for the path you are heading down”.

“What do you mean?”

He felt her burning gaze on him “You have heard him before? Have you not? The dark angel, who you just met”.

He found himself admitting something he had not wanted to reveal. “I have not seen him before---but his voice has haunted my dreams”.

“How long ago did this start?” The compassion in her voice irritated him

He shrugged. “Awhile ago---just around the time of ---well---never mind---it’s---not important”.

“Of course it is; if you brought it up, you must have concern over it.” She persisted, and he had to answer her.

He fumbled towards an answer. “I do ---it’s just---it started right around when God stopped speaking to me, the voices began making sense, their ideas, their caring---it all seemed to fit”.

“The voices are just the opposite; they are to lure you and use you---there is no caring from them only despair. God has not stopped talking to you Xavier; you have just stopped listening”.

To be continued...