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Truth and Sloth
In The Garden of Evelyn and Amelie

"in the garden of earthly delights, I met two sisters there
one with skin as dark as night, the other pale, and fair
the latter spied I at water's fall, the former laid in wait
when to her I proceeded to call, I knew not she was the bait"

There once was a man who fell asleep under a willow tree by a babbling stream in the forest after a relaxing morning walk. When he awoke, he was in a vast garden, the likes of which Nebuchadnezzar could never have dreamed. The stream had become a basin for a medium-sized waterfall, which toppled over a slick rock face about twice an average man's height. The sun peeked down through the layers of foliage above, indirectly illuminating the garden, while a gentle breeze cooled the day's heat and rustled the leaves rhythmically.

The sparkling water toppling over the rocks and splashing into the basin below beckoned to the man, who had suddenly felt a desire to refresh his body in the water. Stripping off his clothes, he stepped into the basin and waded toward the waterfall. The water was hardly deep enough to submerge the man's chest at the deepest point. As he approached the waterfall, the reflections of light in the falling water danced about in a mesmerizing pattern. The man blinked, and rubbed his eyes, and to his surprise, saw a woman emerge from behind the waterfall. She was fair, and her skin was pale; her long, wet locks of light-colored hair clung to her body and were her only covering.

Spellbound by the woman's crystal eyes, that stared back at the man, he advanced toward the woman and embraced her. The couple spun around under the splashing water, joined together as if one. The man caught a fleeting glimpse of a dark, scaly shape swimming toward the waterfall, and he snapped back to his senses. Disengaging himself from the mysterious beauty, he scanned the basin. As the woman reached her arms around the man from behind, the water began rippling from a central point just in front of them. Expecting some nightmarish seasnake to emerge to counter the dreamlike beauty of the woman, the man was surpised to see another woman rising from the water in front of him. She was a dark beauty, with skin as black as night. She wore some kind of scaly garment, draped about her, but full of holes, making it look like her body was covered half in skin, and half in reptilian scales. Her eyes were ablaze, and staring into them, the man's senses were again overcome. He blacked out just as he felt a scaly hand slither across his chest.

The man awoke again in an unfamiliar environment, but seemingly in the same garden as before. Sure enough, the dark woman was seated to his left, the fair woman to his right. They were nestled between the roots of a gigantic tree, with their backs against the wall-like trunk. The two women spoke in turns. The fair woman's voice was soft and gentle, the dark woman's deep and enchanting.

"Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights."
"Where all pleasures rooted in sin are yours for the taking."
"You have been brought here by your vain desire."
"In here, your deepest wish will be fulfilled."
"But beware, what you acquire here cannot be gotten rid of."
"The price of your entry is steeper than you can know."
"But you've already arrived; that means your mind is already set."
"And all will be revealed to you, very soon."

The two women stood up, and without looking back, walked away from the tree, into the verdant brush of the garden surround. Alone now, the man got up, and surveyed the area. Green life everywhere, peppered with vibrant, colorful blooms. Looking up, he spied the great tree's canopy far above. He thought he could make out sparkling red fruits hanging from some of the branches, but it was quite a far way up. Thinking of the fruit, he realized he was quite hungry. He began to feel a strong desire to consume those fruits.

He looked back at the trunk, and noticed something shining on the ground beside where he had been sitting just a moment before. He approached, and noticed it was a fancy blade. Picking it up, he instinctively thrust the blade into the trunk of the tree. Surprisingly, it cut through the tough bark like butter. A thick molasses began to pour out around the edges of where the blade was stuck in the tree. Overcome with a maddening desire, the man got down on his knees and began to lick the sugary lifeblood of the tree right from off the bark. It was delicious! He grabbed the blade and pulled it out of the tree. Now the lifeblood came surging out, enveloping the man in a sticky coating. He nearly drowned himself trying to consume it.

Just as he began to feel full, the tree's wound miraculously healed itself, and the lifeblood stopped flowing. The man slumped to the ground, partially submerged in a dark, sticky puddle. His body felt weak and tired, but his mind was exploding with energy. He felt himself getting smarter. Things that only confused him before suddenly started making sense. Everything became clearer to him, and deception and misdirection was replaced with shining truth. Questions rearranged themselves to form answers. All sorts of information flooded in, and his mind was overcome with clarity. The man felt that he had instantaneously reached ultimate enlightenment.

But then, the information stopped flowing. He still had access to everything that could be known, but there was a limit. His mind had gorged itself on all the secrets of the universe, and now there was no sustenance left. All that could be done was to regurgitate the same information over and over. Furthermore, a dark pit began to form at the center of the man's consciousness. It was the meaning of life. He couldn't ignore it, the one question most seeked out in the history of man. And the answer was a void. It gnawed at him from the inside. All of the bright bits of knowledge started to dim as they were slowly swallowed by that void. None of them had any more meaning beyond that void. Soon enough, the void encompassed all, and there was no hope left in the man, only deep, dark, despair.

His deepest wish having been fulfilled - to possess the truth and sum of all possible knowledge - the man never got up from beside that tree again. There was simply no point. He feasted on the fruits of the great tree that periodically dropped to the ground around him, but the enjoyment of eating them was ruined by the dark pit of despair at the core of each one. The two women who tended the garden visited him regularly, to satisfy his animal needs, but it gave him little satisfaction. There was no point in anything anymore. Not in living, not even in dying. And so he remained there, until the end of time.

(c) 2007, 2008 by zharth

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