The Inquiry

Of all creatures, man is set apart by his ability to respond at length. Other creatures appear to be able to make inquiry and even reply through a series of grunts and gestures, but man alone has been endowed with the responsive power so-called reason.

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Lowering his chin almost imperceptibly, Adam slowly closed his eyes. With an increase of force likely to be noticed solely by his closest family, he exhaled the entirety of the deep breath he had been holding as he watched his sons. He leaned his head forward until his chin rested on hand, which was on the top of his staff, as he reopened his eyes.

“What?” Eve asked.

He didn’t look at her. Though his eyes were open, he did not see anything but the garden.

“What?” Eve repeated.

Worried by Adam’s silence, Eve did not notice the look on Cain’s face. Adam did not have to.

“Abel!” he called at last. “Here,” he motioned for his son to come close.

As Abel listened to his father’s words, he looked towards Cain only to see that Cain was staring at him. Some new feeling arose in Abel, one whose name did not yet exist but which he wished would never have surfaced.

The next month was not pleasant for the family. Adam would not let his sons out of his sight. Eve worried.

“What are you saying, Cain?” Abel asked when the two brothers were in the fields, some distance from Adam.

“I’m saying He-” Cain motioned towards the entire sky, “-He spoke to me after that day.”

“And what did He say?” Abel replied.

“He told me If you do well, will not your face be lifted up?

Relieved, Abel said, “That sounds true.”

“But then He said,” Cain continued, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you.

Alarmed and looking for Adam, Abel said, “Why wouldn’t you do well, brother?”

Adam awoke from his daydream and did not immediately see his sons. Scanning the horizon with growing panic, he soon calmed down. The two men were seen facing each other, apparently talking about something. Then Abel took a step backwards, as if to place some distance between Cain and himself. Adam grabbed his staff and began to run, cursing himself that he did not stay closer.

“STOP!” Cain commanded Adam, Abel lying lifeless on the ground. “Do not come any closer, father.”

Adam stopped and closed his eyes and saw the garden. Cain bumped Adam’s shoulder as he left him there with Abel’s body. Then Adam buried Abel.

That night, Cain had nightmares of the voice saying, “You must master it. You must master it. You must master it.”

He awoke to the sound of thunder, soaked in sweat.

Then Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”

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