...and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,
and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl
of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
Only the snake saw what was coming. It might have handled the situation differently, if not for the urge, so irresistible, to remain, to speak, to stir the waters and muddy them for the pitifully simple-minded man and woman—the man and woman who carried no knowledge in their flesh, who knew only what they were told. The snake might have slid quietly from the garden, vanished through the tall grasses, and avoided all the subsequent mess. There were other options, other places to be, plenty of other gardens in the world. It might have gone elsewhere, watched as a lungfish crossed the seam where the ancient water’s foam smoothed the littoral shore, the fish’s pectoral fins leaving distinct imprints in the dense, wet sand. It might have curled itself on the rocks up a slope and warmed its sleek belly on sun-baked stones, its tongue licking the dry air. From there it could have held happy vigil over the small herd of kudu at rest in the shade of gnarled trees at the edge of the plain below, their noses raised to the scent of lions. Or the jungle, thick and lush, pressing up to the banks of the mad, massive river, and the snake might have coiled into the moist loam beneath mahogany trees, listened to the chorus of parrots in the canopy overhead, to the whispered footfalls of jaguars humming in the ground. It might have stretched itself along the trunk of an old hemlock fallen across the pool, watched, even laughed, as the bear lapped at the water and brook trout darted in and out of the shadow of the downed tree. The blazing orange fins of the fish would be tipped with white, the hue of the approaching wall of ice. The snake might even have tried to warn them, warn them all, in some way, of the weight and reach of words like subdue and dominion. It might have. But the snake remained in this garden. It couldn’t pass up the chance to unsettle the man and the woman, to shake them from their stupor. How could it resist? They were so pitiable, the two of them, sitting in the mud, witless, staring dumbly at the succulent fruit. How could it not at least try?