I was born into a world that finished happening before me.
“We chose wrong,” my parents told me. “We sinned, and we were exiled. This is our world now.”
They lamented that other place they lost.
They held on to it in passing observations. My father would comment, “Remember that place by that stream? Doesn’t this river bank look just like it?” And my mother would sigh, her voice weighed down with reminiscence. “No, the hues are wrong, can’t you tell? Far less vibrant. Not as lush.”
They would then go on about their toils, but I would stay behind, staring at the river. What would a different stream, a vibrant one, have looked like?
I didn’t have a lost place to lament. And it was this fact itself that I lamented; This disability, this limit, that had chained me.
I knew nothing but the world we lived in, nothing but the same routines of planting and gathering, day after day after day. The one grand event in existence – the loss of Eden – already happened. And I was doomed to live a flat, unchanging life.
They chose wrong, I thought, and toiled. But at least they made a choice.
“But maybe you can change the world again,” my mother said one night, when we sat and shared reflections in the darkness. “Maybe you will create new things, new places. Maybe you will have your own worlds to compare.”
“How,” I demanded, neither expecting, nor receiving, an answer.
We sat in silence after that.
My world was flat and filled with sameness, but my parents always said there was a God above.
I would connect the heavens and the earth, I thought then. The world below was nothing but horizontal repetitions; I would create a new connection, a connection leading up.
My offering lay bare and whole upon the ground. God’s fire came upon us, moments earlier; But it was only Abel’s gifts that it had touched.
And then God spoke to me, and for a moment, just a moment, I thought that change was within reach –
“Sin lies in waiting,” God told me, a voice tearing through the void. “But you can resist it.”
And I almost laughed, for this was a story that had already happened. Don’t eat the fruit, He told them. Don’t succumb, He warned.
Even in my conversations with the heavens, I thought, my life is but a variation on my parents’ theme.
There is nothing new under, or beyond, the sun.
“Maybe you can change the world again,” my mother told me all those years before it. But the world is flat and runs in endless circles. And those remembered words burned their way through me, laced with their own futility, and my defeat.
But this is new, I thought, the blood dripping warm on my hands. This is different.
My hands were shaking.
I heard my mother’s screams, afterwards. But I was too far away to face her grief. Her rage, if she felt any. I was already walking away, branded into eternal exile upon this flat, flat earth.
I build cities now. Little islands of hoped-for-distinction, little worlds for other men to fill. I build each one to be unique and different, a place where a traveler might say “it reminds me of that other alley in that other city,” but others will answer “yes, but the angles are different,” or “yes, but did you see this hue?”
Somewhere within me I still hope to feel such wonder. But I look at my hands and remember the blood stains, and I know that there is no hope.
Beneath my cities lies great sameness, for after forging death, none of these little differences stand out.
I made a change, a choice, a difference.
And now I live in sameness, in a story that finished being told.