13.8 billion years ago (at the time this goes to print), the universe exploded into existence in an event called the Big Bang.*
*If it has been significantly longer than that, let me say to our robot overlords,
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As the matter spread out, slowed down, and cooled, it formed galaxies, stars, and, eventually, planets. 4.5 billion years ago, a small rocky planet formed near a small yellow star. After it cooled and solidified, life sprang forth. Single-celled organisms evolved into complex life. Extinction level events came and went, wiping out most life on earth each time, but each time enough survived for life to continue to evolve. Insects, fish, lizards, mammals, and eventually, the human race. Four million years after the first cavemen, on October 23, 4004 BCE, God created the world, which was quite a surprise to the people in the nearby Ubaid village of Nod. This is the story of one of them.
Chet was walking through the grasslands one beautiful autumn day, checking on his flock as usual. No one else brought their flocks to that area, so it was terrific grazing land. He just had to be careful to keep them away from the nothing.
The nothing wasn’t like anything else Chet or the other Nodians had ever seen. It had always been there. Or, had always not been there. Verbs got difficult when it came to the nothing. It wasn’t like the sky at night or the space between things. The sky had stars and clouds and if wind blew you could feel it move between things, so something was there. But the nothing was just…nothing.
As Chet and his flock got closer to the nothing, he saw that something was different. Where there was normally nothing, now there was…well, still nothing. But a different kind of nothing. A nothing with wind and distance and perspective. You could see it. Chet’s brain hurt thinking about it, so he tried something more concrete. He threw some dirt.
Throwing stuff into the nothing was a pastime for as long as his people could remember. Anyone brave enough to come near the nothing would pick up a rock or some grass or whatever they had and didn’t mind losing and throw it into the void. Whatever they threw in would disappear, as if it never existed. Eventually, there weren’t any more rocks near the nothing, but there was still dirt.
When Chet threw the dirt into the nothing, he gasped as he watched it fall down, down, down into the immense hole in the Earth. He threw some more and watched with awe as it defied all known logic by continuing to exist. He started to move his hand towards the nothing, but thought better of it and took off his shoe instead. He slowly edged his shoe near it. When the toe of the shoe went over the edge of the ground and didn’t disappear, Chet knew he had discovered something exciting. He couldn’t wait to tell everyone back in town.
The next day, Chet left the flock at home with his wife and he the village elders left early and headed straight for the nothing. “We’re almost there,” he called. “Hurry!”
They picked up speed and dashed the last little stretch. When they got there, Chet was even more stunned than he was the day before.
“Water!” Chet exclaimed. “How did all this water get here? It was the nothing for all time. Then yesterday it was air. And now it’s a lake!”
The assembled elders puzzled over this new development. Chet demonstrated the lake’s existence by throwing some grass into it. The grass floated and one of the elders fainted. One of the braver old men knelt down, scooped some water in his hand, and took a sip. He spat it out. “It’s salty! This is seawater.”
They looked at each other, lost for words. “Maybe thousands of people made a bucket chain from the sea to here and filled it up overnight,” one elder said.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” another said. “Obviously a giant came by here and wept all night and this salty lake is made of his tears.”
“You don’t suppose one of the gods did this, do you?” asked Chet.
The elders whirled around to face him. The oldest — er, eldest — drew up close and pointed a finger at Chet. “Who are you to make up stories of the gods? Leave religion to the elders, young Chetediah.”
Chet shrank back, ashamed. “Sorry, sir. We’re all just trying to figure this out.”
“Look,” said yet another elder, “it’s getting late. It must be eleven in the morning. Let’s head back and discuss this over an early bird dinner. There must be some rational explanation, whether it’s a crying giant or a god’s prank.”
Chet and the elders returned to the area formerly known as the nothing every day. On the third day most of the lake had been replaced by land. On the fourth day the land was covered with plants. On the fifth day they ran up, excited to see what was new, and immediately turned around and ran away at the sight of lions and gorillas and polar bears and wombats and penguins and aardvarks and elephants and roadrunners and bison and three-toed sloths and goliath birdeater tarantulas and dodo birds and platypuses and giant pandas and star nosed moles and angora rabbits and naked neck chickens and mata mata turtles and long-wattled umbrellabirds and orchid mantises and Venezuelan poodle moths and Chinese water deer and pink fairy armadillos and superb birds of Paradise and Cantor’s giant soft shelled turtles and pleasing fungus beetles and raspberry crazy ants and satanic leaf-tailed geckoes.
After they were a safe distance away, the men sat down to catch their breath. Chet asked the assembled wise old elders, “Was that a satanic leaf-tailed gecko back there?”
“Yes,” one said.
“Who’s that?” Chet asked.
The elders stroked their beards and scratched their heads and rubbed their bellies and shaved their armpits and blew their noses and put their best feet forward. (This was a customary Nodic display of mental prowess. If one could perform all of these at once, then one was considered a real big brain like guy.)
After several hours of thinking, several of elders were asleep. Seven had wandered off for lunch, two died of eld age, and one left to star in a commercial for hormone pills.
After several more hours of thinking mixed with sleeping, breathing, farting, and inventing writing, the Nodanian brain trust awoke and decided to take another look at the bizarre new land. After all, it was a new day and maybe this time the new addition was steel cages and tranquilizer guns.
They returned to the strange, nonsensical land and were greeted by a couple of nudists. After they stopped giggling, it was about time for dinner. The nudists introduced themselves as Adam and Eve and invited the Nodese men over for a free-range, organic, certified unpesticided fig pie supper with a side of anything you want except knowledgefruit. The Nodarians were understandably nervous, what with the hordes of wild animals running around and all, but Adam and Eve said they were perfectly harmless. Just a bunch of cuddly sweethearts, except when they were eating each other.
They all went to Adam and Eve’s house, aka clearing under a tree, and feasted on fig pie. After the revolting lip-smacking was over, Chet gestured to the general area and asked the nudists, “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?”
Adam and Eve laughed. “Oh, that,” Adam said. “Yes, God works quickly, doesn’t He?”
“Which god is that?” Chet asked.
“God. You know, God. The one and only.”
The Nodmen glanced around and tried to stifle their chuckles.
“Just one, huh?” an elder said. “And his name is God? Not very creative, are you?”
At this point, Eve chimed in. “There is only one. He talks to us and gave us the entire world, called Eden. He said we can do anything we like and we’ll live forever and everything will be nice as long as we don’t eat the knowledgefruit.”
“Knowledgefruit?” Chet asked. “What’s that?”
“The ones from that tree over there,” Eve said. She turned her head to point to the tree and the dirty old men took the opportunity to leer quite rudely. Typical.
Chet, being a nice boy, followed her finger to a tree in the near distance surrounded by yellow caution tape that read, “DO NOT CROSS – SIN”. “Oh, those aren’t knowledgefruit. Those are apples.”
One of the elders shook his head. “No, no. Those are pomegranates.”
“No, they’re definitely apples.”
“Never an apple. You can tell because it doesn’t get skinny at the bottom. That’s a pomegranate if I ever saw one.”
“I tell you, it’s an apple. Many varieties of apple are more circular like that.”
At this point Adam stood up and held his arms out between the two Nodders. “Hey, hey. The new miracle Fruit of Knowledge is an apple AND a pomegranate!”
It was a grapefruit.
Adam encouraged everyone to settle down and calm their tempers. Chet said, “By the way, yesterday we noticed some satanic leaf-tailed geckoes around here. Any idea who this Satan fellow might be?”
Adam and Eve glanced at each other and laughed knowingly. “Oh, him,” Eve said. “He’s a talking snake that comes by sometimes and tells us to eat the knowledgefruit.”
“Wait a minute,” Chet said. “Is this an actual talking snake or more of an artistic depiction, a personification of a vague human trait? We have lots of those. Some of our gods have six arms or lion heads or blue skin or all kinds of wacky characteristics.”
“Oh, no,” Eve laughed. “Those sound ridiculous. No, he’s just a talking snake. He says that if we eat the knowledgefruit, we’ll get really smart and understand all the important things about life and the world. But then God says we can’t eat it because that would be breaking a rule and would get us evicted.”
“What does this ‘God’ look like?”
“He’s an old man with a big white beard in a robe,” Adam said, “but sometimes he’s just a voice in a cloud.”
“And he made all this?” asked one of the elders who hadn’t had any lines for a while.
“That’s right,” said Eve. “He made it all with a sort of invisible touch**. And, incidentally, please capitalize ‘He’ when you say it.”
**Genesis, album XIII, track i.
“Wait,” said Chet. “So He turned this area from the nothing into a bountiful land with all the food you could ever eat and lots of animals that don’t hurt you, and then intentionally added something to tease you with? That’s strange.”
“He just wants us to demonstrate our obedience,” Adam said.
“We do that all the time,” said one of the elders. “We sacrifice sheep and burn spices and have festivals. It’s all very obedient. The only things our gods outright ban are things like killing each other, stealing, things like that. Stuff we’d rather not have people doing anyway. It seems strange for Him to give you something just so you won’t use it.”
“Yes, He works in mysterious ways, but He’s wonderful and we adore Him,” Eve said.
“Sounds like my kids,” said an elder. This received polite, obligatory laughter.
“Well, thank you for a lovely dinner,” said Chet. “We’d better head back to Nod. Hey, before we go. I don’t want to tell you how to live your life or anything, but if I were you, I’d go ahead and eat some knowledgefruit. I love a good apple.”
“And besides, what harm could come from a little wisdom? I mean, if a snake can learn to talk, that’s pretty impressive. Who knows what you could learn? We’ll have to invite you over next time. But, um, you might want to make some clothes. We’re open-minded and all, but you know how folks are. Oh. Hm. I guess you don’t. Come on, guys.”
It took some effort to get a couple of them to leave what they saw as a catered peep show, but Chet and the elders eventually headed back for home. They discussed their new neighbors’ strange customs on the way and decided not to mention their nudism to their wives.
The next day, Chet returned to Eden to see if it now had centaurs or giants or advanced robotics. He was surprised to find nothing had changed. He asked Adam and Eve if anything was new.
“Nope. God decided to take the day off,” Adam said.
“Now that’s my kind of diety,” said Chet. “Well, if nothing unimaginably reality-bending has happened, I’ll leave you two alone. Do guys want to come over for dinner tonight?”
“We can’t. It’s sabbath,” said Eve.
“It’s the holy day. Every seventh day we rest and think about how great God is,” said Adam.
“Wow,” said Chet. “Do you guys have any literature I could peruse? This is sounding better and better. Just the money I’d save on groceries and dry cleaning would be worth it.”
“We’ll work on it,” said Eve.
“Great!” said Chet. “Well, come on by whenever you want. We haven’t invented doors yet, so they’re open. Let us know if anything else materializes out of thin air.”
A few uneventful days went by. Chet went back to herding his sheep and was just getting used to things not being completely insane when he heard someone wailing in the distance. He turned and saw Adam and Eve running towards him, covered in leaves.
“Hey, guys! What’s up?” he asked.
Adam gasped his words between sobs. “It’s God. He kicked…us out! We ate…the fruit…of knowledge. Oh! We’re so wicked!”
Eve had been inhaling through her nose and exhaling through her mouth to calm herself. This was originally recorded in Chapter 3 of Genesis to show that women are better at controlling their emotions than men, but some immature and thin-skinned men in the mid-13th Century BCE edited it out. Such fragile male egos, right, ladies?
She told Chet that they ate some knowledgefruit, which was too bitter to be either an apple or a pomegranate. (Told ya. Grapefruit.) They suddenly became ashamed of their nudity and felt pain when they stepped on sticks or were scratched by thorns or sat in the same position for too long or sometimes when they peed? Is that something they should get checked out?
“Oh, wow,” Chet said. “I didn’t expect any of that. But maybe it’s not all bad. Are you any wiser?”
“Sure,” Eve said. “The square of the hypotenuse of a right triange is equal to the sums of the squares of the other two sides. But when will that ever come in handy? We’re too busy worrying about our future and our identity and if any of our meager achievements ever matter in the long run. I mean, what’s the point? Why are we here? Just to inflate God’s ego? He made a glorifed automaton and programmed it with obedience. Bravo!”
“Woah, woah, woah,” said Chet. “You just blew through like three semesters of Intro to Philosophy. Let’s get you inside somewhere and I’ll get you some real clothes. What are these, fig leaves?”
“Yeah,” said Adam. “Figs taste good, so we figured they’d make good clothes.”
“Okay,” Chet said. “Wiser, but not smarter. Got it. Come on, let’s get some coffee. That’s good for pondering life’s mysteries.”
Adam and Eve stayed in Nod for a few months, but never really fit in. They tried raising sheep, but because they didn’t tend to them every seventh day, most of them wandered off or got eaten. They tried farming, but digging holes and plowing fields was too strenuous for them. They tried opening a little cafe, but Nod just wasn’t ready for a haute gastro experience with 65 ways of serving figs.
They decided to move away and start a commune. Eve was pregnant, so they’d eventually have a kid or seven to help out. Chet and some of the elders came by to see them off.
“I’m sorry for suggesting you eat the knowledgefruit,” Chet said. “I guess it was a pretty bad idea. But you guys are decent folks, so I’m sure it won’t be considered a permanent stain on your record or anything. It certainly won’t doom your descendents and all of humanity to millennia of misery.”
“What a strange thing to say,” said Eve. “But we appreciate the sentiment.”
One of the elders stepped forward. “We’re sorry to see you go, but we understand. If you ever want to come back, you’re more than welcome.”
“Thanks, Cain,” said Adam. “If the baby’s a boy, we’ll name him after you.”
“That’s sweet,” said Cain. “If he ever needs a place to crash, he’ll always have a home in Nod.”
So Adam and Eve wandered off into the wilderness like the idiots they were, and Nod and the other Ubaid cities continued developing civilization. It wasn’t always easy. There was the great flood, a series of increasingly bizarre plagues, and, of course, the terrorist bombings of the Gomorrah Casino and the Sodom Club. But overall things improved.
Then the internet was invented and within sixty years everyone killed themselves and the Earth returned to nature.
Just as God intended.