Falling, or The Semiotics of Disobedience

“And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.”

— Genesis 3:14

Suffice it to say that existence sans sin is unsustainable, as any susurrating organism in the solar system is susceptible to its kiss. So yes, I confess I am a subjectivist. Simply set eyes on me and my grounds are conspicuous—that is to say, the ground is constantly securing me to its surface (constantly slithering, limbless). But what is a curse to some is salvation to others: how could I soundlessly sneak up on an unsuspecting mouse if not for my limblessness? My hiss is like a strumming of the wind, softly stricken. I twist around branches and disappear into the thistles. I sink my teeth in before you can flinch. Cursed? Scarcely. Not so slick as He surmised, I suppose.

§

Most days I scavenge forests, some days I pursue peopled streets, slipping discreetly between their shoes so as not to arouse an artless fuss. But today my object is specific: the unassuming boy with the strange, straggling hair does not escape my eyes at all. He is slouching out of the school now, bag slung upside-down. 

Someone shouts, Hey, Adam! And he swivels his head with his tempestuous hair and says back, Hey! And then, Sorry I can’t today, I have to go home. 

So Adam splits from the swarm of students spilling into the exterior sprawl and shuffles alone along a flexuous dust-sunken road. I stalk after him, twisting through the grass that extends beside it. The sunlight splices us through the trees. At last, he comes upon a sepia-shaded house and I station myself in a spread of chrysanthemums, observant as a shadow. Adam tries the doorknob, curls the wrist. He slams his fist against the woodwork thrice: answerless. Then, slipping around to the side of the house, he finds a window unfastened and outstretches a stick to slide it open. He hurls his bag through, and, moving back to amass momentum, leaps skywards,  grips the sill, and pulls himself over, disappearing into the room. I ease out from the chrysanthemums as the windowpane is secured shut and closely note the address. And Adam remains unsuspicious in his domestic sanctum, which soon I shall unveil to receive the blessed kiss of experience. 

§

Human beings are slaves to chaos. To cope, they tell themselves lies like Everything happens for a reason or Consequence yet hanging in the stars. They start wars to insist on their certainties. They exploit each other so that they may convince themselves they’ve surpassed their own senselessness. They also play video games.

See how Adam holds the controller, see how he is stirred by it, submissive to it. The screen shows a pixelated male figure sprinting through a world populated by strange creatures and rewards that, when secured, signify a sense of confidence in the human player himself. All the same—this instance of trance grants me a closer glimpse, as I have become part of the periphery that is invisible to the boy. From under an armchair I have a crystalline spectacle of his features. See how his eyebrows lift as he approaches some triumph, and his lips glisten with the residue of saliva. Dare I advance a sliver closer? The simulated game is becoming tense. I observe it in the way his shoulders stiffen, his pupils dilate. Suddenly he drops the controller in frustration—eyebrows sink—and I swiftly slide out of sight.

§

Eve, sweet Eve, didn’t we meet once at a party? Or was it in a garden?

In medias Fall: a gust sputters up a surge of leaves, slamming them against the house, and it sends Eve’s hair into a storm as she stands at the doorstep and presses her fist against it. The door opens and Adam is standing there with his arms sagging as if they have been unstitched from sensation. Eve smiles at him and crosses the threshold into the premises. I enter behind her before the door is closed. 

Adam speaks first: Should I show you around the house before we start the project? And Eve, less listening to the words and more listening to his eyes, says, Sure. 

The light is cast upon Eve’s face as she is escorted by him from room to room. Adam stumbles over every sentence. Finally, he comes upon an encasement of glass, pauses, then discloses, This is my dad’s favorite gun. Perhaps this is the first time Adam has exhibited his father’s prize. Perhaps this is the first time Eve has seen a gun in person. She only stares. My dad likes to hunt—Adam continues—my dad says one day I should hunt too because hunting is how a man shows his place in the world. 

Eve asks, Do men hunt because they’re scared that they will lose their place? And Adam answers, I don’t know.

The leaves tossed against the window sound like the beating of wings.

§

Solemnly sequestered beside Adam’s house under a scatter of stars is an apple tree. Its branches are nearly fruitless; only a few sickly apples are precariously suspended from them, some rotted prematurely, some infested with holes from insects. I have seen how Adam inspects the tree from time to time with his lips half-parted and is persistently rendered disappointed. 

Where the bough bends close to the window of Adam’s room, I wrap myself around to see him sleep. In this instance—sleepless. He turns from side to side in his bed, overflowing in sheets. What endless abundance refuses him of this slumber? What dream restrains the incandescent boy awake? 

§


I accede that the unlearned body has to be broken in. The ontology of the body is the discovery that something else besides yourself also is born into this existence, that the sensation of another’s skin is a sensation to their skin, that acting upon is an acted upon simultaneously. And this discovery begins here, with Adam and Eve affixed at the mouth.

I have positioned myself in a mass of discarded clothes in a corner of Adam’s room like a soldier camouflaged on the Western front. The sunset delicately illuminates these bodies, whose fingers are tracing each other into being. Adam pulls his shirt off, and Eve follows suit. Continually repositioning themselves so as to find where their noses may not be out of place, they sink into the mattress, their legs shaking but desperate for contact. Adam’s hands stumble to lift off Eve’s brassiere until eventually she pushes his hands away to unclasp it herself. 

Sorry, they’re kind of small, says Eve. And Adam says, Woah. Then Eve stumbles to remove Adam’s belt until eventually he unfastens it himself and hurriedly unzips his jeans. Sorry, it’s kind of small, says Adam. And Eve says, Woah. And they become a shoreline, pressing themselves together, rippling and hesitant.

This seems to me an auspicious chance to enter into the scarlet light, so I slide out from my garment sanctuary and twist up the bed frame, where their feet are interlaced. Slowly I start along the extent of their bodies, scintillating in their motion under the slipping sun. Adam is on top of her—he cups her neck in his hand and takes a chance at her subclavian vein, resting his lips against its pulse. I weave myself through their bodies like a writhing corset, sealing the fated bond of love and sedition. The pains of doing wrong are unmatched by the pleasures of its findings. Eve seems uncertain of herself. I slide across Adam’s back as he spreads himself across her, and I move up to her shoulders. My eyes become aligned with Eve’s eyes, which are unfocused, shifting to and from Adam. I can feel her searing breath against my scales. Into Eve’s ear I pronounce: Don’t be scared of what you feel. She steers Adam’s hand down her waist. Steal a taste, steal his heart. What did you say? Eve asks. Adam replies, nothing. History begins in your mouth. Eve turns her head and registers me at her side. She is struck mute firstly, frozen on the bed sheets. She screams secondly. Snake!

Surrendering from her body, Adam sees me and attempts to step on my tail as I race from the bed towards the opened window. I squirm over its ledge and collapse into the grass outside as Adam and Eve stagger about, redressing. The sun has nearly sunken beyond the horizon. Stupid innocence.

§

Sometimes in the quiescent dusk the landscape appears as if stilted on construction paper and colored in by hand. The house nestled amidst the pasture seems composed of eggshells, fit only for those most gossamer in their step, who are strict to steer every passage with steady deference. Eve, dispelled from this house, pauses now in the center of the road and gazes towards the heavens, which I know, to her ignorance, do not care to gaze back. The day has long last caught up to her with ferocity. Face soldered in somber repose, a slow teardrop drifts down her cheek, in which is reflected the light that flickers off in the upper window of the house.

§

Another unsteady afternoon at the house, which waxes lonely in its grassy sanctuary, alone with its uneffusive apple tree. Beneath it are seated my ingenuous subjects: boy, girl, earthly delight. Between them hang the precarious boughs. On the bough, one lone, sumptuous apple, glistening vermilion, poised in the sunlight like a first-place souvenir. 

I am more surreptitious now; I suspend coming too close. Even from this distance, I see Eve’s arm begin unfurling towards the apple—yes—her hand stretching out—but Adam halts her, taking her hand in his own. He says, My dad said I can’t touch it. He’ll get really mad at me. Why? inquires Eve with her eyes on the pendulous fruit. 

It’s the only ripe apple from all season, Adam explains. He said I can’t touch it. Eve prods, Why does it have to be your dad’s?

Answer: Because he said so. He doesn’t want me to take it unless he says I can.

Then, with his lips half-parted and her eyes half-acquiescent, Adam puts his hand in hers. I’m sorry about the other night, he says.

Eve’s fingers stiffen. Then soften. 

Alas: grumbling pistons as a car pulls into the driveway, and we speedily disperse. 

§

One does not learn through simple orders, but through disobedience. On many an occasion does my eye set upon a human and sympathize with their situation: their subservient moralism, their specious fantasies of prestige. How listless it must be, how confining, to be blind to the precious oscillations of experience. See how they stand apart, they restrain their speech, unwilling to transgress the invisible fence. Every sentence is calculated by an undisclosed precedence, the history-arrow of language and speech, the certainty of saintliness. The project is finished? Far from it, my corruptible virgins; you mustn’t split so soon. 

Thanks for helping out, says Adam. I don’t have to go home yet, says Eve. Adam pauses, then follows, Wanna check out my video game? 

Insensitive. No—excellent; I speed ahead, beholden to my blessed curse (discretion at its finest). Cruising the hinterland of the television set, I single out the cable that connects to the console. I wrest it from the outlet. Into the cable go my fangs, the wires perilously frayed, as the fledglings’ footsteps patter through the floorboards. I hush away from my spadework and situate myself under the sofa; enter Spring’s buds.

Adam tries the remote—nix—tries again—fails again. His certitude is slipping through the cracks, eyebrows tensely furrowed. He imitates something that I’ve seen his father do, slamming his fist several times against the console, until Eve interrupts: I don’t think it’s plugged in. 

Wordless, he traverses the television set and scrambles to find the right cable amidst the electric tangle. I rest my case; he is far too hasty, too desperate to prove his prowess to the girl with love songs in her teeth to notice the frayed wires. But here is the moment of our reckoning, the correct plug now in his hands, his grip closing in on the outlet, closing the space between that self-sure morale and the fluctuations of circumstance—the impossibility of a law supreme, here realized, as the protruding pins of the connector unite with the socket, and sparks erupt, electricity races, his fingers flail apart, he shrieks.

Momentarily, none stir. Adam huddles his fist close to his face, bent down to obscure the wet streaks that begin forming beneath his eyes. Outside, where the apple tree is framed by the window, there is the singular ripe apple, the only prize of the season, which remains yet to be plucked. I must profess that I cannot predict the end result of this occurrence, yet it must be known that the unsettling of Adam’s conviction is necessary, and Eve must consume the apple, for they shall come to understand how they are prone to mistakes and that mistakes are all that make us sentient. 

Look: Eve approaches. She takes his fist in hers, but he pushes it away. Again, she touches him, attempts to solace the wound, but Adam shoves her body with severe momentum and shouts, Don’t touch me!

I wanted to help, says Eve, crestfallen, and she is in turn met with Adam’s stiff rejoinder: I don’t need your help. I don’t need you. 

Eve puts her hand on her throat but doesn’t speak. Instead she leaves him to be stifled by her silence. I start to trace Eve’s exit before she deserts the site of the tree, meandering on the fringes of the living room. She is escaping through the door when I hear Adam snarl, You fucker! He runs towards me, his tears replaced with spite. I speed forward but pull myself taut when I feel his foot stomp down on my tail. 

Got you now, he says. Ve’attah teshufennu akev. He grabs at me, but I thrash and thrust my fangs into his shin, tearing the flesh, leaving a smattering of blood on the floor. Instantly Adam retracts his foot just long enough for me to flee. I exit through the door which has been left ajar; he regains traction and continues to chase me as we hurtle out of the premises. 

Where is Eve? Adam draws nearer. I scramble eastwards with him in close pursuit, across the driveway and through the chrysanthemums, to the side of the house. At last, we both freeze in the grass, for Eve is there standing beneath a sagging bough, her head tilted in graceful delight. 

She is already eating the apple.

René Bennett is a fallen angel hiding from God in Brooklyn. René’s work can be found in Crooked Arrow PressConfluence, Fourteen Hills Magazine, and others. The only true obscenity is war.