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The woman stopped walking and looked around. She looked up at the sky, as if waiting.
"Hey, Eve, put some clothes on, you harlot." There was a snigger.
"Who's that?" she said, looking behind her, her waist-length blonde hair swishing and her leaves rustling as she turned.
"I'll give you a clue," said the voice sarcastically. "There's only you, me and Adam in the world, right?"
"And I'm not Adam." Another snigger. "You're so dumb."
She kneeled and peered into a bush.
"It's me: Snakey," said Snake as a head as big as a fist emerged from the bush and a long, multicoloured body followed it and stretched to bring the face level with hers.
"Oh, it's you," she said crossly. "Go away."
"Aw, Evie, don't be like that. It was just a joke."
"Some joke!" she snapped. "You and your jokes. Look at the last one: 'Eat this apple', you said, 'it'll make you smart.'"
Snake looked hurt, in as much as his head dropped a few inches, his tongue stopped tasting the air and his beady eyes avoided hers - settling instead on her chest. "No theory's perfect, Evie."
"Smart! All I learned was that I'd been walking around naked. No wonder that pervert Adam was always smiling." She flipped Snake's head sideways with the back of her hand. "Stop staring."
"You think it's fun being turned into this? Doomed to spend the rest of my life crawling around on my belly without so much as a hand to wipe my nose with."
Eve shrugged. "Serves you right," she said half-heartedly.
"Aw, Evie, you don't mean that?" He rested his head on her shoulder, inching his body closer.
"Well, maybe He was a bit hard on you," she said, adjusting her leaves. "But at least your colours are pretty."
They looked at his scales shimmering in the sun, the shades of colour changing with every movement of his muscles.
"That's a nice blue," she said. "Right there." And she touched a patch just behind his head.
Snake twisted himself into a corkscrew trying to look at the back of his head before collapsing into a twitching heap on the grass.
"What's wrong?" said Eve.
"An itch!" he hissed. "Right in that spot between my... well, between where my shoulder blades used to be. It's driving me crazy." His tail curled round and ineffectually rubbed at the spot. "Oh, Evie, please," he pleaded.
Eve held up her finger, its long, hard nail tantalisingly close to Snake's head. "No more jokes?" she said.
"Anything you say," he said. "Just do it."
"No more dropping out of trees onto me?"
"No more calling me dumb?"
"You're a genius, Evie, I've always thought so."
She scratched gingerly at the scales, surprised at how strange and cool he felt.
"Ooh, yes," he purred. "Harder, Eve. Down a bit. Yes, there! Good. I really must get around to shedding this skin." His tail inched up her back, paused, then inched round toward her leaves. She stopped scratching him and stared at the tail. "Er, what are you doing?"
"Ah," he said, guiltily. "Er... I thought I saw a caterpillar eating your outfit."
"I don't trust you any more," she said. "Not since that business with the apples." She grabbed his tail, stood, swung him three times round her head and let go.
"Eeevieee!" screamed Snake as he flew towards the river.
"Snakes!" she muttered as she walked away. "Always up to no good."
Damned apples, thought Snake as he swam to the bank, feeling cold in spite of the warm sunshine. Turned a perfectly uninhibited - not to mention gorgeous - girl into an overdressed psychopath. Tree of Knowledge my foot! He looked along the length of his cold, wet, limbless body to where his feet used to be, and sighed.
He climbed into a tree and hung in the sun by his tail from its lowest branch, drip-drying himself. He swung gently in the breeze, decided he enjoyed the sensation and swung himself to and fro, humming happily to himself. Couldn't have done this before, he thought; having no hands can be a bit challenging, but a six-foot body of solid muscle does have its plus sides.
"Hi, Snake, what're you doing?" said a voice behind him.
"Swinging," he said, twisting his head round to look at Adam.
"How come you're all wet?" said Adam, laying on the grassy bank in the shade of the tree.
"Eve," hissed Snake. "She threw me in the river."
Adam laughed. "Why? Did you drop on her again?"
"Not likely! Last time I did that she chased me with a rock."
"Well, it's your own fault; you and your apples."
Snake shrugged - but having no shoulders, no-one noticed. "Hey, Adam, how does she keep those leaves on anyway?"
"No idea. She won't even talk to me since she put them on. Soon as I get near her she throws things at me and calls me names."
"You could try wearing a leaf yourself."
"Not likely!" said Adam. "It's not natural, and probably not healthy, going round covered in foliage like that. I think she's lost her mind."
"Her what?" laughed Snake. He tried to grin but it came out as a sort of ferocious-looking fanged gape that made Adam shrink away from him. "It was you who first said she was as thick as mud."
Adam rubbed his ribs. "Don't bring that up again."
"Don't know what you're talking about," lied Snake, thinking: at least I now have a perfect face for poker.
"Mud," said Adam.
"Oh, yes," said Snake and swung merrily from the branch, enjoying the rush of blood to his head. "Now, what was it that list of ingredients He gave you said? One rib; pinch each of sugar, spice et cetera." He looked at Adam upside-down. "What was that other thing? Porcelain, wasn't it?"
Adam pretended not to be listening.
"And what," said Snake, "did Adam say? 'Mud will do. Who's to know?'"
"Well, it all looks the same," shrugged Adam.
"Oof!" Snake fell out of the tree.
"Careful," said Adam, concerned, "you'll break something."
"What, for instance?" Snake looked sadly at his body.
"Sorry," said Adam. He shook his head slowly. "I was surprised He did that to you though. I've never seen him that mad before."
"Women," hissed Snake. "Nothing but trouble. Oh, Adam, Adam, why did you have to go and ask Him for a woman? Life was so peaceful in the garden; a bit of hunting, shooting and fishing, dominion over all the beasts - and now look at you."
"Well, how was I to know what they're like? I'd never seen one before - and you've got to admit she looks nice."
Snake tried to look aloof. He failed. "If you like that sort of thing," he said. "Personally I prefer something a bit less lumpy; a bit more... streamlined." He flicked his tail and rolled over.
Adam leaned on one elbow and watched Snake stretch out in the sun. "I like the lumpy bits," he said. "Especially the..."
"However," cut in Snake while he still had Adam's full attention, "it's not the end of the world, is it?"
"I don't follow you," said Adam.
"It's just like pots, isn't it; if you make a bad pot - as you usually do - what do you do?"
"I throw it away and make a better one."
"Exactly," hissed Snake, moving closer to Adam.
"Ah," said Adam, understanding. He shook his head. "But I can't just throw Eve away. She'd come back - and then she'd be really mad."
"No, Adam, that's not exactly what I meant. It was sort of a metaphor."
Adam nodded, completely lost.
"I meant you ask... Him... for another one. You'll have to own up to the mud thing - and he already knows about the apples. Tell him she doesn't work right, and she's no fun any more. We could call the new one Evette; I like the sound of that."
"Ah," said Adam, just at the moment a fist-sized stone flew out of a nearby bush and bounced off his head. "Aahhh!" he corrected.
Snake tried to slither under a boulder as Eve burst out of the bushes and ran toward them waving a big stick above her head. She hit Adam several times about the shoulders and back, the only parts exposed after he'd rolled himself into a ball, and shouted at him, "Cover yourself up, you pervert." Then she grabbed Snake by the tail and dragged him, dumping him in a heap beside Adam, where he coiled himself as tightly as he could in an effort to present the smallest possible target.
"And what," shouted Eve, giving Adam one more clout for luck, "would He make Evette out of if all your precious ribs were broken?"
"Well don't hit me," said Adam. "It was Snake's idea. I wanted nothing to do with it."
Snake glared at him and bared his fangs. "I get the blame for everything around here."
"I heard who's idea it was!" said Eve. "I'm not stupid." She glanced at Snake. "Any more." She tapped the stick in the palm of her hand and adjusted her stance, thereby setting the standard for debt-collectors and sundry heavies throughout history. "I'm warning you two; If I see you making so much as a mud pie..."
Adam stared at his feet.
Eve glared at Snake.
"Well don't look at me," he said. "I can't even hold a mixing spoon."
"Right," she said. "And, Adam, do something about your hair, and that beard, you're starting to look like an ape." She walked away.
Adam stared after her and rubbed his new bruises.
Snake hissed vigorously after her. "Adam, you've really got to learn how to keep your woman under control."
Snake slithered into a hollow, fallen tree. "Here, mousey mousey," he hissed quietly, his tongue flicking like a lash. "I know you're in here, I can taste you. Come on, Snakey's got a nice surprise for you. I bet you've never seen the inside of a snake before."
"Snake! Snake, where are you?"
Snake's head shot out from a hole in the tree. "Oh, thank you, Mr Noisy! That was my breakfast you just scared off."
"So what's all the excitement about? You've asked Him, haven't you?"
"Yes. And I wish I hadn't."
"Ah," said Snake. "Mad, was he?"
Adam turned and pointed to a column of smoke rising from behind a hill. "See that smoke? That's the tree I was sitting in when I asked Him."
Snake ducked back into the tree. "You told Him about the mud, then?"
Adam sat on the tree and rested his chin in his hands. "Yes. That's when He started crushing boulders. He says Eve's the only one I'm going to get."
"Oh dear. Hard luck."
"He says we have to make lots of new people, to fill the world."
"Who? You and me?" said Snake, not at all happy at the prospect of so much work. "You haven't got enough ribs."
"No, not you and me. Me and Eve."
Snake was beginning to feel left out. He'd gone right off woman. It had been so much more fun when there was only him and Adam; sleeping late, eating when they were hungry and only washing when they were dirty. "You still won't have enough ribs."
Adam stared at Snake, a strange look of embarrassment on his face. "He's sort of changed the recipe a bit. No more ribs. And no more mud."
Snake's head reappeared quickly. "Well how can you make people without ribs and mud?"
Adam told him.
"Ugh!" said Snake. "I don't like the sound of that. That'll never catch on. Not at all."
"Oh, I don't know," said Adam, smiling to himself. "It might work."
"Well there's no way you'll get Eve to try it."
Snake slid silently up behind Adam and noted the fresh bruises on his back and shoulders. He said, "I see you're..."
Adam jumped up and started running away. He stopped and turned.
"...Getting almost as colourful as me," continued Snake.
"Do you have to sneak up on people like that?"
"It goes with the body. I did try stamping my feet, and even whistling, but you know how it is..."
Adam sat back down.
"You told her, then?" said Snake.
"And she politely declined?"
"No, she hit me with a stick again. Called me all sorts of names and chased me out of the house. She told me to stay well away from her from now on."
"Told you so," said Snake. He slithered over Adam's shoulder and studied his face. "What happened to your beard, then?"
"Er... it fell off... while I was sleeping."
"I see," said Snake with a bit of a snigger. "And most of your hair with it."
"Well, it was always falling in my face and getting in my eyes. You know how it is."
"I don't actually, no - not lately, anyway."
Adam shrugged, causing Snake to slide off his shoulder.
"And is that a leaf that sir's wearing?" said Snake. "Very smart. How it suits sir! My word yes."
"Well," said Adam, crossing his legs. "It seemed sort of...right...you know. Under the circumstances."
"Fashion victim!" sneered Snake. "Oh, Adam, Adam, what's happening to you? Where's the man who was lord of all he surveyed? Afraid of a woman!"
"Who's afraid?" Adam stood and puffed out his chest.
Adam reached for a rock.
"Okay," said Snake quickly, "if you're not afraid of her, why are you cringing here, covered in bruises, while she's living in luxury in the house you built?"
"Well? Go up there - now - and throw her out. Demand your rights, man. You were told by Him Himself to make people."
"I will," said Adam, defiantly, then sat down. "First thing tomorrow I'll go up there and tell her."
"Now." Snake nodded. "I'll come with you; moral support and all that."
They made their way to the pile of logs that Adam had roughly tied together and called a house. Eve was busy hanging leaves on the washing line when they approached. She saw them and ran inside, to appear at the window a moment later with a bow and arrow. She loosed one. It stuck in the ground at Adam's feet. "I've told you to stay away from me, pervert!" she shouted.
Adam picked up the arrow and looked at it. "What's this, then?" he said to Snake. "It's got feathers on the end but it can't be a bird, it has no wings."
"That's definitely not a bird," said Snake. "Any bird that lands as badly as that thing would never catch on... definitely. And birds are definitely not made of wood. I should know, I eat enough of them."
Another arrow whizzed past Adam's ear. "The next one hits you between the eyes!" shouted Eve. "Now back away."
"Adam," said Snake casually while he hid behind a boulder. "I think you should take cover now. Have you considered what would happen if one of those things tried to land on you?"
Adam considered it for a moment, then threw himself over the boulder at the moment another arrow splintered against it.
Snake carefully poked his head around the side of the boulder. Just beside the house he noticed the apple tree growing. He turned to Adam. "Have you eaten any apples, by any chance?"
"Not likely! What sort of fool do you take me for? When He says don't eat the apples I don't eat the apples. Just look what it did to you to mess around with the apples."
"But Eve's been eating them, hasn't she?"
"I suppose so," said Adam with a shrug. "Do you think that's why she's become so strange?"
"No, I think women are meant to be strange. But I do think it's why she's become so smart."
"Now what's she doing?" said Snake when he found Adam standing on the river bank and Eve a few feet from shore on a raft.
"Running away," said Adam. "Now, Eve, you know what He said about crossing the river and returning to the garden." He stepped into the water.
She pushed the raft further out, to the edge of the current. "I'm going, Adam. I want to go back to the garden where it's safe. Where you won't be able to follow me."
"Why don't you just let her go?" said Snake.
"Because she'll never be able to cross the river, the current's too fast. And she can't swim."
"Then it's simple," said Snake. "You let the current take her, then ask Him for a new one. Not your fault if this one can't swim, is it. We can call the new one Evette... or something."
The raft started to sink. The water came up to Eve's knees.
"Wouldn't that thing be better if it floated on the water, Eve," said Snake, "rather than under it."
"Oh, shut up, Snake!" said Adam as he waded into the water up to his waist.
"Oh, Adam," cried Eve, "I think I'm sinking."
Adam waded in up to his chest and stretched his arms toward Eve. "Quickly," he said, "jump to me before the current takes you."
"I can't, she said. "I'm afraid." The water rose to her hips and the current dragged the raft out into deep water. She threw herself towards Adam, landing on him with a splash. They both went under.
WELL? said a voice all around Snake. AREN'T YOU GOING TO HELP?
"Who? Me?" said Snake. "I hate the water, you know that."
THEY'LL BOTH DIE IF YOU DON'T HELP.
"I'm just a snake, remember? I crawl around on my belly and eat dust. No arms, no legs. What could I do?"
"So does wood."
"Why don't you just let them go? Make yourself some new ones."
I LIKE THAT PAIR. AND THEY'RE NOT EASY TO MAKE.
"They weren't even very good; they're just no fun any more. They're always fighting. They never do what you tell them.
THAT'S JUST HUMAN NATURE. SO, ARE YOU GOING TO HELP THEM OR NOT?
"What's in it for me? My old body back?"
ASK YOURSELF THIS: WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU IF YOU DON'T. HAVE I MENTIONED THE LATEST CREATURE I'M THINKING OF MAKING? I CALL IT THE MONGOOSE.
"No, you haven't mentioned it. What's it like?"
WELL, IT'S SORT OF SMALL AND FURRY...
"Aw, that sounds really cute," said Snake, thinking he could do with some new items in his diet.
...AND IT'S TOOTHY AND FEROCIOUS. IT EATS SNAKES.
"Okay, I get the picture," said Snake as he slid into the water, and he thought: what a hardass!
I HEARD THAT! boomed the water.
Snake found them being slowly pulled into the current, still struggling and trying to swim, but still holding on to each other. Adam grabbed Snake's tail and pulled Eve tight to him as he kicked with his feet. Snake floated to the surface and wriggled to shallower water.
"Pathetic!" said Snake as they lay spluttering on the bank. "Humans! Can't swim, can't change their skin, no poisonous fangs, boring colours. I don't know, who'd want to be human anyway?"
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