The Man

The man was ready for his final rest. He had lived what felt like many lifetimes, too many for a mortal man he thought, and he was tired. He had experienced the joys of fatherhood, the tragedy of losing a child, the sorrow of an unhappy child and had lived long enough to see the accomplishments of children and grandchildren.

By the time she, the woman of his youth, mother of his children, had passed, he knew that he was ready.

He hadn’t spoken to him for a very long time, not since his youth, those early, innocent days, when he had experienced both the best and the worst of his long life. In those early days it had been a close, trusting relationship. He had been a child, basically, even though he was born at his prime, fully mature and developed. But then again, how mature can one really be if they never had a chance to make their own mistakes and learn from the consequences. He had a feeling his mistake had been expected, regardless of the anger and the questions and the disappointment. How could it not have been? Anyhow, he hadn’t spoken to him ever since the punishment and expulsion and so there was no clear answer. With all the long years he had been given though, there had been plenty of time to think and reflect on whose fault it truly was and whether his fate had been inevitable even if she hadn’t spoken to the snake.

“Still thinking about her talking to the snake, huh? Haven’t learned much then in all these years of reflection, now have we?”

He couldn’t see anybody, and he was pretty sure the voice had been in his own head, but regardless he knew who it was.

“You scolded your son for not taking responsibility for his crime. Are you not doing the same?”

He remained silent.

He had pondered it many times. As soon as his mind would wander to that excuse, that difference, he remembered that wrong was wrong. It was not up to him to decide which crime was worse or could be justified. His mind battled guilt for long, weary years — because he failed to see the terrible consequences of eating a fruit forbidden him, while he had lived the tragic outcome of his son’s crime; because his own human logic, which he knew could not even begin to grasp the entirety of the universe that was created, was so sure of its own supremacy, that he expected to be able to understand the reasons behind everything which he should not do.

“Are you ready, my son? You frail, flawed, yet sometimes surprisingly touching son of mine. I call you a son even though you are merely a creation, like the animals, trees and oceans around you. You are my son because on your good days you remind me a lot of me. Anyways, as you are aware, your time is up. Before you go though, I offer you a glimpse.”

“A glimpse of what?” The man was filled with curiosity.

“The future. You’ve seen your children’s deeds, both great and horrible. You’ve seen your grandchildren and what they have built and accomplished. But that is only what you behold right in front of you. I will allow you take a look at the far ends of time — at what the future holds for your children. Would you like to see?”

The man couldn’t help but feel curious. An ancient stirring filled his breast — the likes of which he hadn’t felt since his youth.

“I would.”

Suddenly it was as if he was floating through time and space. He could no longer feel his body and stars and galaxies whirled around him.

Looking around desperately, he felt afraid.

“I am right here. Don’t be afraid.”

He felt comforted and lost all fear. Looking straight ahead, the whirling colors of space dust began to coalesce into vivid images.

He saw a terrifying flood sweep over the earth he had inhabited his whole life. Whole populations of his grandchildrens grandchildren were wiped out. Beautiful cities built by his children and grandchildren were destroyed by the roaring waters. He was horrified as he saw only one boat riding the great waves, constantly seeming as if it might too get pulled down into the deep, but when the waters finally receded he saw that the lone boat had survived.

The images changed and he saw great cities being built anew in the aftermath of the catastrophe. A few cities grew into large swathes of territory which amassed great riches, vast armies and legions of slaves. He saw how a few of his descendants became powerful kings while most of them worked till they collapsed all the days of their life. He saw these vast hordes of his suffering descendants building great pyramids and wondrous structures for their kings. He felt a deep pang of pity for these children of his and then remembered the punishment from his youth: you will have to work by the sweat of your brow, all your days on this earth.

He felt the guilt from the fruit rush back to him as if he had just eaten it.
The images swirled again and he saw the masses of people bowing down to statues passing their children through fire. An old man fled one of these kings, migrating west with his family and teaching people he met that no man or statue should be bowed to.

The man watched with rapture as this descendant of his brought a knife to the neck of his own son, then stopped — before touching his son.

He watched with familiarity and sadness, brothers after brothers fighting among themselves.

He was joyful when the brothers who sold their brother into slavery reconciled with him, and brought their families to live in the kingdom he now ruled.

Sorrow once again filled his heart as he saw the king and his people enslave this family and afterwards, themselves suffer from plagues and drowning.
He watched with wonder as great kings arose, destroyed and scattered other people with their vast armies and then, in turn fall to other, greater kings.
He gaped with awe at one of his descendants, a man who conquered almost the entire world, and then was conquered by another who exceeded even him. This other conqueror spread a new way of thinking and a new language around the world — a newfound appreciation and idealization of the human body, an idea that men should choose their ruler — along with a host of gods to worship. This man’s kingdom and ideas lasted until another man led his kingdom to conquer the world, with new gods to worship. This kingdom spread a system of laws and man made works which made life easier, but which was maintained with sword and whip and the master’s heel on the slave’s neck.

This empire too was eventually swept away by weakness and foes biting away at it.

The man felt his eyes grow heavy and his heart wary, as he watched once again, his descendants regroup into new, distinct groups.

Kingdoms in the west, worshiping a man killed by the previous empire and armies in the east, with a man at its helm bent on converting the world to his new ideas.

With frequent clashes and a man from the far east smashing his way to the west, blood was spilled, people scattered and identities changed.

The man didn’t want to see or know anymore.

“How can I watch my children slaughtering each other like this? Please, no more.”

But the images kept coming.

Leaders were killed and replaced faster than he could see now.

Leaders were no longer kings but just power hungry people, shoving their way to the top, killing as many people as they could along the way.

When all the kings of the west sent their armies to start slaughtering each other in the biggest bloodbath he’d seen yet, he felt tears running down his cheeks.

But he didn’t have time to process what had happened, before the world was once again redivided, between new ideas.

Four leaders rose above the rest, and when the killing began, the man was exhausted. He dreaded what he would see but when the dust cleared, he saw that this time they had also murdered the old, the women and the children. He stared with horror at his descendants, piles of emaciated bodies, sickly, starving survivors with nowhere to go.

He watched as his children finally seemed to see the horror that he had seen — and they looked down shamefaced at piles of emaciated bodies and promised, never again.

The man was shaking his head as the images started appearing faster and faster — of fantastic structures his descendants were building, which he would never have imagined in his wildest dreams.

By the time he was ready to go, he had seen more than he wanted to see. And he had only one thing to say.

“I truly regret eating that fruit.”

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