Pandora couldn’t remember the last time she had a full night’s rest. Wake up, tend the garden, name a couple animals, go to sleep. The work was endless and exhausting. Worst of all, it was pointless. What did it matter if a ram was called a ram or a heron a heron? But there was no one here who would answer her questions.
She was made to worship, to serve, she knew that. But He who she was supposed to worship— where was He? She had never even seen Him, had only been told about Him and his Glory and Splendor. Follow the rules, and you will live forever. Follow. Follow.
What she did know was the smell of damp dirt, the feeling of it as it caked on her palms, rolled into little pills and fell to the ground. She knew the garden she lived in, the whole square of it, as if it were etched into her mind. She knew every plant that sprouted there. She knew the face of every animal that paced in and out of the borders of her garden. She did not know where the animals went at night.
Pandora waited for years. She had no real way of marking time, but she knew that it passed. Her hair, which when she was first placed in the garden was cropped close to her head, had grown all the way down to her ankles. When it would grow beyond the length of her body, she would take a sharpened stone and press its blade against her scalp and close her eyes, savoring the feeling as the weight of it fell from her head, slid off her shoulders, and tumbled onto the grass. She had done this many times.
Do not eat the fruit, for surely you will die.
Her partner would tell her to be patient, to have faith. She was not sure what it was that she was expected to believe in. Everything that is good is in the garden, her partner would say.
Pandora noticed once that he always kept his back to the walls, so afraid seeing something that he wasn’t meant to see. She wondered if meeting Him had caused that fear.
Pandora enjoyed walking on the path alongside the wall. She knew that there was no way to see outside of the garden from inside it, but it gave her a few moments of privacy.
The path alongside the wall was strange. No matter which way she started, or which way she chose to go, it would always wind up at the same tree. For years, Pandora ignored it. There was no reason for her to give it any thought. But as time went by, she began to truly look at it.
She would walk right up, place her hand against the gnarled bark, imagine what it would be like to pick a piece of fruit, pierce its skin with her teeth, to see what was inside.
She imagined that inside of the fruit was everything she did not yet know. The parts of the world outside that she had never seen. She thought of her partner, with his back to the wall. She thought of Him, invisible. She thought of the ram and the heron. She took a bite.
Tiffany Babb is an essayist, comics critic, and poet. She reads and then she writes and then she talks about what she has read and written. Find her comics criticism in PanelxPanel Magazine, Women Write About Comics, Shelfdust, and the MNT. Find her on twitter @explodingarrow or subscribe to her monthly essay about art at www.tiffanybabb.com.
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