I laughed at him. Do I look blue today, Abel? When have I been so [[lost|Frightening]]?\n\nHumans forget [[deeper|falsestart]] things, he said.\n
Some days, I think that the [[sun]] wants to rid the earth of us. It beats down on our heads, and the water that I have drunk rolls off my body and back to the ground. These days are after the wheat is taken to the house, so on these days Cain [[swims]] in the river with Aclima.
No, I do not forget. I lose sense of time. Time is not as new as the sheep and the grass and the sun. Time is old and tricky. It [[rushes]] over what comes next. Perhaps it is merciful that way.
<<set $visited_god = "yes">>\nI feel Him sometimes when I bring [[Abel]] his midday meal. My father says that there is glory in the presence of God, but I am never in His presence, only in His [[passing]].
Mother leans against a tree by our home, arms crossed, her eyes tired. She has not spoken with me since the yelling has started. Neither has father. They are busy with my siblings, Cain and his fury, Aclima and her despair, Abel and his obedience. Where am I in their minds? Who is thinking about [[me|changing]]?
Or is He more like how Abel says that we are, confusing [[deeper|falsestart]] things?\n \nRegardless, we all keep moving [[quickly|burning]].\n
<<silently>>\n<<set $visited_god = "no">>\n<<endsilently>>\nThe [[beginning of the world]] is [[lonely]].
What does God say to you? I ask him.\n \n[[Frightening]] things, he says.\n \nI ask no [[more|together]].\n
When we go home at night, the house is loud with talking. This is not talking, I decide, and another new word comes to my mouth: [[Yelling]]. They are yelling, my father and Cain. Abel tells me to wait outside. I would have resisted if he were not looking at me like he does. I wait. Abel comes back with a meal for me and with [[trouble]].
You make the air too full, he said. The world is [[perfect]] as it is.
He takes me to a place with high, stringy grass, signals for me to wait, and releases my hand. He wades into the bush ahead and leans down. He brings back a wet whiteness. It mews pitifully in his arms, a strong little lamb. \n\n \n\nIt is not the time for lambs, I say, and Abel nods. \n\n \n\nThis is a special lamb, he says.\n\n \n\nAre you sure that it is not late or early? Confused?\n\n \n\nHe nods. It is special, he says, and I believe him.\n\n\n\nWe walk [[home|NightTrouble]] together.
Abel returns from his flock with the lamb under his arm. The special one. Had he known the whole time? Had God? My jaw is tight with anger at them both. This is what betrayal is. I say the word out loud once, testing it out. Yes. [[Betrayal]]. I watch and I [[forget|losetime]].
Mother used to tell me stories about the garden, about things that came and went before there were [[names|Cain2]] for being and not being. Presence and absence.
But the world was not perfect. \nThe world is not perfect. \nThe world is working. \nIt fixes itself were it can. We fix what it cannot, and even with all this working, [[God|God2]] sill rushes around like the gazelle or the lion.
God was never very interested in my story. He often came to [[Abel|watch]].
But [[Mother]] and Father, I protest, they were born together.\n \nWere they born? Abel asks me.\n\nI don't respond and he answers for me. \n\nNo, he says, times are [[changing]]. This is where it [[starts|falsestart]].\n
I stand too quickly, startling the sheep into a run. In their fear, some have turned green again. The rest follow, latching on to the change, and soon they are little more than a storm of green clouds, thundering towards the [[horizon|Wants to be sure]].
The [[beginning|falsestart]] of the world is lonely. \n\nWe do not pass sheep as we go or things that eat sheep. I have not seen a lion in days, only thunder clouds. None are as dark as the one who walks before me. None as brooding.\n \nGod does not pass us as we [[go|Nod]]. I think that he has lost us somewhere along the way. \n\n\n
Cain's hands are worn by working the [[field|wheat]]. They are large and rough, like the rest of him.
Cain wants to be sure. He says he wants to know God's will. He says they should give [[offerings|CainOffering]], he and Abel. Whichever God likes more will determine who lies with Aclima. \n\n[[Abel|carelessable]] doesn't seem to care. \n\nI will do as God says, is all he replies.\n
<<if $visited_god eq "yes">>\nIs He as [[confused]] as the grass or the [[sheep|try]]?\n<<else>>\n<<set $visited_god = "yes">>\nI feel Him sometimes when I bring [[Abel]] his midday meal. My father says that there is glory is the presence of God, but I am never in His presence, only in His [[passing]].\n<<endif>>\n
On one of those sun days, Abel takes me down to the low pasture. He holds my wrist with two fingers, smaller fingers than [[Cain's]], larger than mine. I [[follow]] quietly, for, if the sheep have realized one thing, it's that they like the quiet.
A confused river runs red from my brother's face, backwards, leaking, losing. Abel is lost to God, and our voices are [[lost|Cainruns]] to wailing.
God chooses Abel and in that moment he cries. God doesn't cry. Abel does. He stands before the offerings, the lamb and the grain, and he cries and shakes. He knows.\n \nThen there are Cain's large fists coming down again and again. He's holding a rock now and together, hand and rock, they are bound. They strike against Abel, thumping, cracking, [[breaking]].\n
Why? I ask. \n \nI do not know, he answers. His voice is quiet. \n\nHe sits beside me again, eyes watching the hills and the sheep. They remember today, a mass of whites and browns. They graze silently on grass that still nibbles at their feet. \n \nPerhaps, he says, it is because we are born together. Things that start one way don't often remain the same. Perhaps, he says again, those who are [[born]] together are not allowed to live together.\n
God chooses Abel and in that moment he cries. God doesn't cry. Abel does. He stands before the offerings, the lamb and the grain, and he cries and shakes. He knows.\n \nThen there are Cain's large fists coming down again and again. He's holding a rock now and together, hand and rock, they are bound. They strike against Abel, thumping, cracking, breaking.\n \nA confused river runs red from my brother's face, backwards, leaking, losing. Abel is lost to God, and our voices are [[lost|Cainruns]] to wailing. \n
Sometimes I wish things could go nameless a while longer. Naming can't be [[undone]].
Sister, he greets me. \n\nHis eyes swim in redness, but I [[say]] nothing of that. I set down his meal and we eat [[together]] in the new sunlight.
Sometimes I [[wish]] that sheep were like [[wheat]], that they could be left alone for a time, so that Abel and I could swim too.
Sometimes at night, I stare out past the stars, where the sky is still dark and [[nameless|Cain2]]. \n\nTowards Nod.\n\nThe edge of the world is cold and [[moving|burning]].
The [[beginning of the world]] is [[lonely]].
My mother tells me that I am too straight-forward, that I see everything too simply. Can I not sense the fullness of creation? The [[newness|beginning of the world]]? There is so much beauty in this earth if I would only take the time to [[feel|ignore]] it. \n\nThis is what she would say, and so I [[try]].
Wheat is stubborn like Cain is stubborn. I've never seen it lose its shape or color like the sheep. It knows what it is and what it is for.\n\nI [[wish]] I had that certainty.
The days are full of noise, of this yelling, and Abel tells me what he can.\n \nGod wishes that I should have Aclima, he says, and that Cain should have you.\n \nI do not [[realize]] what this means. He [[repeats]] it.\n
We are all sacrificed in the [[end]].
And then I too feel the sudden warm-cold passage of [[God|God2]].
I watch him even now, and it is a long time before he [[notices]] me. Wind could wash him clean again; the earth could be remade in the time it takes for him to look up. He sits still on his rock, his eyes closed, his arms stiff at his sides. I can see the hair [[rise]] on his arms, on the back of his neck.
by\nElizabeth Swensen \n\nAdapted from an unpublished \nshort story by the same.
I do not look at Abel. We haven't spoken since the [[sheep|SpecialLamb]]. My mind burns at the thought of him. Aclima, they all want Aclima.
Cain doesn't understand it. He and Aclima were both conceived in the [[garden]]. Why would God [[ignore]] him and speak to Abel?
Father saw Cain and Aclima today, he says. They were moving like husband and wife.\n \nIs that so bad? I ask. \n \nIt is bad enough, he says. Father is consulting [[God|Yelling]].\n
Cain doesn't get far before God catches him and forces him to return. I expect him to look different somehow, not green like the sheep, but different. He looks tired, it is true, but he seems the same-except for his eyes. Deeper things, [[Abel|sacrifice]] said, and I think I understand. \n\n[[Cain|sacrifice]] stares at [[Aclima|sacrifice]] differently now. Her beauty is like a star to him, and in the rising of the day, it fades. She is still beautiful, but he doesn't come for her. He listens to God. He comes for [[me|sacrifice]].
His [[warmth|burning]] never stays to be basked in, but rather falls on and off me, leaving nothing but an unpleasant, sudden chill. I don't begrudge Him this, of course. I do not need His words when the sheep still won't keep their [[color|try]].
But what is [[left]] to be named? I asked him then.\n \nMany things, he answered.\n \nIs this what [[God|God2]] feels like? I had asked.\n \nA very small piece of God, he had answered.\n \nHe asked me what I felt like saying around Cain, and I told him my new word: \n\nStranger.\n
I think that Cain was the first notion I had of a new [[word]].
It is my turn to stare out at the sheep. My tongue begins to tingle as a new word takes shape. I am not [[afraid]] of the feeling now, and I let the sounds fall from my lips. They land unkindly on Abel's ears and he winces at what he has heard.\n \n[[Unfair]]. I have said. It is unfair. \n
God wishes that I should have Aclima, he says, and that Cain should have you.\n \nI do not [[realize]] what this means. He [[repeats]] it.
Father knows about the itch of a new word better than the rest. When I was smaller, I told him about the feeling I had around Cain, the odd unknown that whispered at my temples and the anxious energy in my neck and back, the [[burning]] need to speak. Father told me that the animals were named thus. That perhaps I would [[name]] things too.
God speaks to Abel just as He speaks to my father and mother. He does not speak to [[Aclima]] or [[Cain]]. He does not speak to me.
Talking is better than swimming. Talking is like swimming. [[Words]] are like water.\n\nThey float you [[forward|NightTrouble]].
Wishing it doesn't help, but [[talking]] to Abel does.
Cain goes to gather his offering. He has worked long on the fields, so it is wheat he brings, armful after armful in his massive, hulking embrace. I watch as he goes, but he doesn't look at me. He looks only at Aclima- and at [[Abel|SpecialLamb]]. The [[wheat]] is set on the ground.
Unfair, I repeat. I do not like Cain. Let Aclima keep him! I shout. \n\nAbel does not answer. He looks disappointed. What was I supposed to understand? \n \nHe does not answer. He turns and walks [[after|Wants to be sure]] the sheep.\n
I have spent most of my life with Abel. We shared the same womb at the same time, and we grew up a great deal in togetherness.\n\nAs did Aclima and [[Cain|Cain2]].
I stand near Abel and [[watch]] him as he watches the sheep. They are not green today. The [[problem]] with sheep, he tells me, is that as soon as one forgets, they all follow. One ram turning color will incite the rest to confusion.
God has never been very interested in my story. I shall have to write the future myself.\n \nI will look for new words in the land of Nod. I will find new things to forget.
I forget that he is dead.\n\nDead covers a body like earth. It covers up whatever the dead thing was [[before|follow]].
While Cain, father, and mother worked in the fields, Aclima worked in our home, repairing its holes, cleaning its spaces, building and making and telling us stories. Mother told stories of the [[garden]] and Aclima retold them when mother was busy. \n\nAt night, when Cain would sleep in a big, loud thundercloud pile, Father would tell his stories. [[Cain|Cain2]] worked too hard to tell stories.
Why do sheep forget? I asked him once.\n\nHe smiled at first, but then frowned. We [[forget]] too.\n
There is much to see out in the wilds, and there is something magical about being young in a place that is young itself. The sun is just as startled at my existence as I am of its brightness. The water is unsure as to which way it will flow. It [[forgets|try]] sometimes and goes unexpectedly. The lion will still run from the gazelle while the grass tries to nibble on the paws of rabbits. The world is [[perfect]] and yet confused, and [[God]] is ever busy.
As I grew up, I made more words, but most of them were reworkings of older ones. Light and Dark were old, but I said glisten, shadow, glow, defuse. Soft and Hard were old, but I said grainy, gentle, slimy, dense. Father told me that they were good words, but Cain, who was near father when he was not sleeping or with [[Aclima]], said that they were useless. He did not [[mean]] it cruelly. He believed it was the truth.