Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Man of Red Clay: A Novel of Adam" by Jonathan Hooper, Chapter 6

Chapter Six



My time, the time to say goodbye to the sons I have amassed around me and to the protective banks of the Jordan, is drawing near. How strange that I should die in the spring, when all my daughters sing about love and are forgetful of winter! My children are scattered through all the lands, and so I cannot say goodbye to all of them. And there are many who do not know me, who do not know who their first father was. All I can hope for is that they thrive and do not dwindle away, no matter how cruel nature is to them, no matter how often the sun robs them of their harvest. Is it too much to hope, that they will shun the path of Cain and live righteously?; that they will one day be reconciled with God? “Is Eden to be lost forever,” I asked Gabriel as we were brought to the gate; he commanded us to go, and told us that God's will would be revealed to me before I died.



Seth, there is one thing I would ask before I get any weaker. Do not think it strange of me, or that I am talking from my fever. I want you to take me into the desert, to Horeb, where God showed me the path to the Jordan; the land will not be too cruel to us, and the spring makes mild travelling. There will be rains to cool us if we start soon. I am not too old that I cannot guide you. We can take a couple of your hardiest sons, and we can herd animals before us, and we'll be in sight of the mountain before spring is ended.



“Horeb, Father? Horeb is far away in the desert. The sun will finish you off. What would mother think of me leading you off to a quick death? In two years, you have not gone so far as the river, much less into the great desert - it takes all your strength to withstand the heat and the cold here in our home. Your body will not stand such a journey, and I could not bear to bury you in some remote place, where only the nomads would pass by your grave. If resting here prolongs your life a little further, why not do it?”



I am about to die anyway; we shouldn't quibble over days and weeks. Here in this low valley, among the vines and the olive trees, I sleep while I am awake; Horeb and the desert though, far from the pity of all my sons - in these places a man can still hear God's voice, he can still talk with Him. When we get to Horeb, you and the others can camp beneath the mountain, if you are afraid to face God. I will find the strength to climb to the summit alone.



“Your mind may be strong, father, but that won't carry you up a mountain all by itself. Your body is too weak, your legs are too frail. I know that God blessed you with great strength once, but He has taken your strength away.”



I will ask God to see me to the top. He will give me enough spirit to climb, if I ask. Gabriel made a promise to me before we left Eden; he said that God would disclose some secret to me before I died. God waits for me on Horeb, and I must go to Him.



“I have always thought that you would be buried here, next to your farm, the place where you raised your children. Your life has been here: next to the Jordan. Eden, the desert - these were long ago, and you look upon them without happiness.”



I cannot change what I am, Seth. God breathed life into this body: He gave me spirit, and my spirit begs that this journey be taken. If I cannot return to Eden, I will return to the desert that wrought my true humanity. And, on Horeb's peak, my spirit will be lifted up this last time, to talk with Him, then all this will be yours - the fields, the orchards, the livestock, everything the earth has to offer. You are my eldest son, so it seems right that you should become master of all that I have built here. Of all my sons, you are the most blessed, and you please me more than all the others; you have taken away the memory of Cain.



Yes, Cain. My sons, the wandering tribes of the desert, have told us many stories; they bring us rumours, saying that Cain has made a settlement in the east, far away from here, his sons worshipping spirits and turning their backs on God. But who can say - these are the stories of lonely shepherds, perhaps.



My heart feels heavy when I think of Cain. Something tells me that these are more than mere tales; I know that Cain has cursed God and that perhaps he has the protection of devils. But I would rather not know for sure. Enough it is to know that our fall brought such a fate upon my kind. Lead me to Horeb, Seth; I pray that Cain's kin will die out in time, or that the passion that made him kill Abel will burn itself out.



“Very well, father. I will speak to Enosh. But you've given me much trouble to deal with. There is much work to do for the harvest, and Horeb is such a remote place. Rest for the afternoon, and I will come back when there is more to say.”



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