The First Murder

The First Murder

A Chapter by Robert Ulysses Wright
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This is the tale of the first murder

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The morning sun rose above the hills and illuminated the beauty that surrounded the lone farmer who had been working the field for almost an hour. A gentle breeze brushed against his face as he cut stalk after stalk. The young farmer met the sun’s gaze with a smile. It was easier to work during the light hours, but if he did not start early, he would be in the fields all day. Such was life; early to rise, early to get the work done. A young man ran through the grain toward the farmer. His long, dark hair flowed like the grain in the field.

“Cain!” he yelled as he ran. The excitement in his voice was hard to miss.

“Abel? What are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be getting the flock ready to graze?”

“I had dad take care of it. After all, I have to get ready for the ceremony!” said Abel as he reached his brother. Cain’s eyes widened with apprehension as he dropped his tool.

“That’s today!? How could I have forgotten? I don’t have anything to offer!” Abel looked at him with a mix of amusement and uncertainty. He always got a kick out of watching his older brother worry about things. Still, forgetting about today of all days. Cain could be really dense sometimes.

“Seriously Cain, you work too much! If you really need something, I could give you an extra lamb, but I get the fattest one!” said Abel with a smirk. “That way you’ll learn your lesson.”

Cain looked down at his younger brother with an annoyed smile. Why did he always turn the tables like that? He had not even seen his fifteenth summer, and yet he seemed to have more worldly knowledge than Cain. Was it not the older brother who was supposed to teach the younger? But then maybe the younger brother was supposed to keep the older one in check as well. Who knew what the Creator intended.

“Listen, Abel, I was thinking…”

“What are you standing around for? Mom has to get us ready. It’s going to happen soon!”

Abel half ran and half dragged Cain behind him as he led him out of the field toward their home. That Abel, thought Cain, Always running around. That’s probably why dad made him the shepherd. Cain waited till Abel had stopped pulling him along and they were walking to tell him what had been on his mind.

“Abel I have to tell you something,” Cain said finally when they had reached the hill that overlooked their hut.

“What’s up Cain, you worried about today? You shouldn’t be. Mom and Dad have done this plenty of times. It doesn’t matter what kind of animal it is; it just needs to be young and innocent.”

“That’s just it. I don’t know if I can do it Abel.” Abel furrowed his brow.

“Do what, the ritual?” asked Abel. “You need to do this if you want to keep on living.”

“No, I mean sacrificing an animal. I don’t think I can do it. I’ve never killed anything in my life.” Cain lowered his head in embarrassment. “I just can’t do it.”

“You mean big, bad Cain is afraid to sacrifice an animal,” said Abel with a giggle. “It’s not that big a deal. Mom and Dad have done it for years. It’s the only way we can keep death away from us. If we do not offer an animal in our place, the Creator will come for us instead. That’s the way it’s been since he threw our parents out of his Perfect Garden.”

“I know, but still, in the end animals have feelings too. They feel pain and loss just like we do. I’ve seen the sheep you raise, Abel. I’ve seen when they lose one of their own. They mourn like we do, even if they don’t speak of it like they used to. I can tell they hurt like us. It just isn’t fair,” said Cain with a worried face.

“I know… but what can we do? If the Creator says so, it must be done. He is the prime mover, after all. Everything he says goes. If something in his creation did something it was not supposed to, what would that make him?”

Cain looked at his brother with a sense of admiration. Cain wished he could be enlightened like his brother, but he was too busy tending the fields to do any real thinking.

“Even so, there has to be another way. What if we were to offer something else?”

“Like what?” asked Abel.

“I don’t know; anything. I won’t kill a lamb. I just won’t,” said Cain brazenly.

“What else can you offer? Animals are the only ones that will work. That’s what dad says.”

Abel turned to the hut at the foot of the hill. Their mother Eve was walking out with something in her arms.

“There’s mom now. If you have a problem with this you should tell her about it,” said Abel.

“I can’t. I’m the older brother. I’m supposed to be the one who shows you the way in life after mom and dad. I’m supposed to be brave. I can’t tell them about this,” said Cain half heartedly.

“You want to be brave?” asked Abel with an inquisitive look.

“Well, yes,” said Cain.

“Then quit being a chicken and tell mom and dad about it!” shouted Abel as he turned and ran down the hill.

Eve had been busy since sunrise getting everything set up for the day. Today was special because today her sons Cain and Abel would become men. The first time they took responsibility for their wickedness would be the first time they could truly be called men. It was only supposed to be Cain this season, but Abel wanted to be a part of it so bad that she and Adam could not refuse him.

The two altars were almost ready. Two piles of stones stacked neatly the day before were now being adorned by Eve’s careful hands with trinkets of all kinds. The Creator had very specific instructions concerning the offering of an innocent creature. Eve had already learned not to disobey her Creator, no matter how pointless his instruction seemed. It was a lesson she and her husband would never forget.

Abel reached his mother as she was returning from the hut to place a final set of ornaments.

“Hello my sweet. How are you feeling this morning?” asked Eve in a very soothing tone.

“I’m fine but Cain seems to be bothered by something,” said Abel with a grin.

“I am not!” exclaimed Cain as he caught up with his little brother and held his head between his arms. “I’m just nervous, that’s all. This is a big day in our lives after all.”

“Yes, today my boys become men,” she said as she separated them. “This is a day that I have waited a long time for. I hope your father can make it back here in time.” Eve held her pregnant belly and let out a deep breath. It wouldn’t be long before another came into this world.

“Are you okay mother?” asked Cain as he helped her sit. “Maybe one of us should have gotten the altars ready.”

“No son, I haven’t taught you the proper way to set it up. It’s very important that you do it just right or the offering won’t work,” said Eve still holding her belly.

“I just can’t stand the thought of you doing this in your condition. One of us could help you,” said Cain holding his mother’s hand.

“You have your fields to tend, Abel has his flock, your father has his hunting, and I have my work. It all has to get done my son,” said Eve.

Abel knelt next to Eve and pressed a hand against her belly.

“So are we going to have another brother or another sister? What do you think?” asked Abel as he marveled at his mother’s large belly. He was too young to remember when his sister Adah was born. He took any chance he could to inspect the miraculous affair of his mother making another family member in her belly. Cain had been the same before Abel was born.

The day wore on slowly as Eve prepared her sons for high noon. When the sun was highest in the sky the Creator would appear to claim an innocent in place of the sinner. Cain wondered one last time if he could really bring himself to go through with it.  It was a ritual that repeated every cycle of the seasons. Eve and her husband had done it ever since they had been expelled from the Perfect Garden. She could not remember what its true name was. The first bitter days in the cold world outside the Garden had made her forget those small details. All she could remember now was that it had been the most beautiful thing she had witnessed in her entire life, more beautiful than her husband or even her sons and daughter. It truly was perfection. But that was long gone now. Even its name became but a distant memory. They just called it the Perfect Garden now.

There was only silence as Eve dressed her sons in the appropriate skins and painted their faces with the appropriate colors. Adah played with some dolls on the floor, not noticing the affair at all. The silence was lifted when Cain finally spoke.

“Mother, I can’t do it,” he said.

“What do you mean son?” asked a perplexed Eve.

“I don’t want death to claim me, but I can’t kill an innocent animal because of my sin. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Listen to me Cain,” said Eve in her most serious of tones. “The Creator is very specific on what it is he wants. The rules couldn’t be clearer; we offer a sacrifice, we don’t get taken by death. If one day you want to die, go ahead. But not while I still breathe. I will not watch my own son die. Not ever. Do you understand me Cain?”

“Yes mother I know but…”

“No buts, Cain. You will do this. If the Creator says so, it must be done.” Eve continued to prepare her sons. Abel watched his brother’s distraught face with concern. Did the animal sacrifice really mean that much to him?

“I have an alternative,” said Cain after a few moments. “It’s not the same but I think the Creator might still accept it.” Eve put the cup of colored ash down on a table and looked into her son’s eyes. She knew that look. It was the same look her husband had that day long ago when he stood before the Creator himself and told it that they were hiding because of their nakedness. It was a look of determination. Determination enough to face the Creator despite the fear he felt in his gut. Cain really was his father’s son.

“I am a tender of the fields, right? I should offer the Creator my finest harvest. Dad told me once that the plants breathe like we do. If they breathe they must surely be alive as well.” Cain was talking as fast as the wind, like his life depended on it. He had obviously put a lot of thought into this little plan.

“I don’t know, Cain,” said Eve, “I think you should stick with an animal sacrifice.”

“But those crops are more than just ordinary plants mother! I invested so much time to make sure they grew. They carry my sweat, my blood, my tears; they are my entire life’s work. That has to mean something.” Cain’s passion erupted out of his voice, catching the attention of his little sister Adah who turned to see what the commotion was about. Eve thought carefully about what Cain was attempting to do.

“If your father says it’s alright, then I won’t have a problem with it,” said Eve. It was a lie. She would not be okay until the Creator himself said it was okay.

Adam arrived home a short while later with his latest catch, several rabbits and a baby deer. The family would eat well until Cain had finished his harvest. Adah jumped up and screamed with glee as she ran into her father’s arms. Adam lifted her up with his strong, muscular arms and walked over to the rest of his family. Even as he approached them he could feel something was amiss. His hunter’s instinct was always on, even when he was with his family. After all, at night the other hunters came out looking for easy prey. Their little hut wouldn’t keep a hungry lion out, so he had to be ready.

“What’s the matter here Eve? I know something is not right,” said Adam as he plopped his catch down on the table next to the ceremonial preparations.

“I’m not going to sacrifice an animal, father,” piped up Cain.

“What? You can’t do that! The Creator said…”

“I know what the Creator said, father, but I won’t go through with it. I am going to offer some of my harvest instead. I just can’t kill an innocent creature because of my wrongdoings.”

Adam looked down at the floor. Images of his son’s dead body and the indignant face of the Creator ran through his mind.

“If you’re wrong about this, you could die. You understand that, right?” Adam said with a tone more serious than Eve’s.

“Yes father, I do,” Cain replied. A small quiver could be heard between his words. He was afraid but he was resolute in his decision. Adam knew that feeling.

“You’re going to be a man after this. Consider this your first choice as a man. If you don’t make it out of this, you’ll at least leave this world as a man. I will be okay with this,” said Adam looking as grim as the night they were banished from paradise, “just as long as you are absolutely sure about this decision.”

“I am father. I’ve thought about this for almost a whole season now. I will stick to my decision,” said Cain.

Eve finished with her preparations. The sun was almost at the top of the sky. Adam set out with his sons to the altars while Eve stayed behind with Adah. If anything happened to her son, she did not want to see it. Abel fetched his finest lamb from the flock. Cain found the best looking crops from his harvest and tied them into a bundle. Adam gathered some tinder and set them on each of the altars. The time was almost upon them. Adam turned to his sons and gave them one last piece of advice.

“When he appears, you have to specify what it is you are offering and why. You must be clear about your offering. Do you understand?” His sons nodded in silence as the sun moved above their heads. Adam motioned to the altars and Cain and Abel went to work.

Abel approached the lamb tied to the altar and slit its throat. Cain felt a prickly feeling go down his spine. He did not understand how Abel could be so willing to sacrifice such a delicate creature. He examined his brother’s face and saw not a hint of remorse or pity. It was an unsettling sight, but Cain had other things to worry about at the moment. He cut the crop bundle offering in two. They both set fire to their offerings. Adam looked to the sky. The Creator was almost here. Abel shook with anticipation. He had never seen the Creator before. Mom and dad had always made them wait inside the hut whenever an offering was to be made. Cain wiped some sweat from his brow. He had dreaded this moment for the longest time but there was no going back now. All he could do was wait for the coming judgment.

Some clouds formed in the sky where none had been before. Suddenly a brilliant flash of light parted these clouds and from the sky a figure descended. Quickly at first, but as it neared the ground it slowed until it reached the soil in front of the altars.

Its form was like that of Adam but different. It had no color on Its skin and no hair covered Its head. A silky smoky substance wrapped around Its body, obscuring most of It. Its chest, belly, legs and feet were clearly visible. Its face, though, was most horrifying of all. Its eyes were an endless abyss surrounded by a light that burned a color that Cain and Abel could not recognize. The smell of heat rising from the soil and burning metal emanated from It. Its visage was truly terrible to behold. But at the same time there was a certain beauty to It. It walked forward with a grace the brothers had never seen. Its very presence inspired the loveliest visions of tranquility in their souls and at the same time brought out the greatest fears the brothers had ever known. Greater even, than the fear of death. This was something that was beyond death, something more terrible. It shook the brothers to their core.

Adam lowered his head and pushed his sons forward slightly. Abel jolted forward from his father’s touch and held up a piece of the lamb in his hands. The Creator looked at Abel with empty eyes that burned like the sun.

“I o-o-offer this l-l-lamb, innocent and p-p-pure, in place of my self,” Abel said, shaking at the knees. “I have been w-w-w-…. *gulp* I have been wicked and by sacrificing this lamb I… I sacrifice my wickedness.”

The Creator held up Its hand and the piece of lamb in Abel’s hand disappeared.

I accept your offering, Abel. You shall be spared for this Season Cycle,” The Creator said with a thousand voices more beautiful and terrible than the brothers could have ever imagined. Cain stepped forward with courage in his heart and held forward a piece of fruit.

“I off-f-fer this bountiful harvest in place of my s-s-self,” Cain said with a voice that echoed with all kinds of fear. “I have been wicked and b-by sacrificing the t-time and effort I put into this crop… I… I sacrifice my wickedness.”

The Creator looked at the burning crops on Cain’s altar. It turned Its gaze on Cain and he froze with terror.

Where is your offering, Cain?” Cain tried to speak but words would not escape his lips. “If you think this pile of crops is good enough, you are mistaken.” The Creator lifted its arms into the air as if it was trying to grasp at something. “No amount of plants will ever take the place of a human soul.”

Cain dropped his fruit and fell to his knees.

“But I can’t bring myself to kill an innocent creature my lord.” The Creator stepped closer to Cain. He could feel It look right into his soul and further. “Why won’t you accept m-my offering?”

I require a creature whose heart beats with the same blood I spilled that day to spare your parents from death.”

“Am I not more wicked for placing the burden of sin unto a creature not deserving of such punishment?”

The Creator tilted its head at an unnatural angle while It looked at Cain.

Maybe, but what I have commanded must be done. If you wish to die for your sins then say so and I shall take your soul to the land beyond the sun. If not, find another sacrifice by tomorrow.” The Creator turned to leave but Cain pleaded more.

“Please Lord! This makes no sense! Why must these creatures suffer? They’ve done nothing wrong! Why can’t you command that a different offering be used? Please, please accept my offering!” The Creator stopped and turned to face Cain. It opened Its mouth and a word escaped, wrapping itself around Cain’s altar. The altar knew its purpose and worked immediately to fulfill it. It lifted high into the sky and exploded into a thousand burning fragments.

NO.

The Creator stepped into the clouds and disappeared into oblivion. Cain collapsed shuddering and holding himself as tears swept down his face. Abel put his arm around him and tried to comfort him. Adam simply watched.

Cain did not go back to his field. He sat weeping on a stone thinking about the unthinkable deed he would have to do in order to save his soul. How could the Creator allow a situation like this to occur? If he knows everything about everything like father says, than surely he knew this situation would come about. Why did this have to happen? Cain tried to reason through it but he could not figure it out. He was not a thinker like Abel and he knew he would not be able to figure this out alone.

Abel walked over the hill and saw his brother distressed. He sat down next to him and tried to think of what to say. Cain spoke without facing his brother.

“Don’t you have a flock to worry about?” he asked with little strength in his voice.

“Dad put them in a pen before he left to hunt yesterday. I thought I told you that already,” replied Abel, with a similar voice. Both had been shaken by their encounter with the Creator; Cain most of all.

“Oh that’s right… I guess I forgot,” mumbled Cain. Abel scanned his brother’s face. There was little left of the confidence he saw that morning.

“Hey, why don’t we take a walk? Maybe it’ll help us clear our heads,” suggested Abel as he stood up and brushed the dirt off his animal hide. Cain stood and began walking without a thought as to where he might be headed. Abel followed close behind.

“There has to be some other way,” Cain said feebly as he slowly shuffled along. “Why can’t the Creator change his mind?” Abel stared at the ground in front of him as he walked.

“I don’t know, Cain. If this is what the Creator wants than who are we to object?” The brothers walked silently for a while before Cain spoke up again.

“Why did the Creator make a world like this, Abel? It is so horrible having to live off the suffering of animals. We hunt them for food, we use their skin to cover our nakedness, and we put them in place of our selves because of our wickedness… what did they ever do to us? What did they do to deserve this?” Abel stopped walking. They had reached a small cove overlooking a lush valley below. Abel placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“They didn’t do anything Cain. That’s the point. We were born wicked because of what mom and dad did in the Garden. Animals are innocent. That’s why it works. There’s nothing we can do about it.” Cain straightened his back and looked Abel square in the eye.

“There has to be something. Why don’t you help me come up with something? You’re the thinker here,” said Cain with fervor filling his voice once more.

“Thinker? You want to know what I think Cain? I think you’re a coward who can’t come to terms with the world we live in.” Cain stumbled backwards. Abel’s tone was sharp and it stung Cain like he had been slapped in the face.

“What do you mean? I’m not a coward. I just don’t want to hurt innocent creatures.”

“No,” said Abel with a cold gaze, “You want to live in a world free from pain and suffering. It will never happen, Cain. Besides, these animals aren’t as important as you or me. It doesn’t matter if they suffer or not.”

“What did you say?” asked Cain in astonishment. “You’re supposed to be a shepherd. You’re supposed to care for your flock. Are you saying that they don’t matter?”

“I take care of the flock so that we can use them for food and wool,” said Abel matter-of-factly. “They’re just a bunch of stupid animals who can’t even understand why I take care of them. They just stand around eating grass all day waiting to be slaughtered. They’re useless without us.”

A flare of anger welled up in Cain’s chest.

“Stop it. Stop saying this,” he said gritting his teeth.

“Don’t be stupid, Cain. They exist for us to use them.”

“No, they live and breathe like we do!” Cain was shouting at the top of his lungs now, incredulous of his little brother’s true feelings. “Blood runs through them just like us! They are a precious part of this creation that suffers because of something foolish our parents did a long time ago! This injustice shouldn’t have to happen. If we continue to do this countless animals will die needlessly!”

“I don’t care. Let them all die. It doesn’t matter to me. I want to live,” said Abel in a callous tone. “If you think an animal is as important as you are then… then you should let yourself be sacrificed.”

Before Abel knew what had happened, Cain had pounced on top of him and was swinging at him like a rabid beast. Abel, being smaller and quicker, was able to escape from Cain’s powerful grasp and maneuvered on top of his brother. The brothers fought fiercely for what seemed like ages, Cain all the while demanding his brother to take back what he had said. Hate burned brightly in their hearts and the fight slowly escalated from a simple struggle to a struggle for survival. Cain pulled hair, Abel scratched at Cain’s eyes, and vicious animal instinct replaced their brotherly feelings.

Soon Abel had Cain on his back and was holding his throat with an iron grip. Cain could feel the life leaving his body as Abel was slowly killing him. He was yelling something at him, but Cain couldn’t hear it over the pulsing in his head. Cain searched desperately for someway to get his brother off him. He felt a rock on the ground. He grasped it and struck Abel with it. Abel fell down hard and lay there twitching as Cain breathed frantically for air.  After Cain regained his composure, he realized what had happened and went to help his brother.

“Abel, are you okay?” Abel lay motionless. Cain had not hit him that hard… had he? He looked at the rock he still held in his hand. Its jagged edge was covered with his brother’s blood. A horrible realization came over Cain and almost in response a pool of blood flowed from Abel onto the soil around his head. Cain dropped the rock and fell to his knees trying to get Abel to wake up.

“Abel, you’re okay, you’re okay. You have to get up Abel…please get up…” Cain held his brother in his arms and wept at the cruel irony of his life. The sky thundered in the distance. Cain knew on some fundamental level that what he had done was wrong. The pit of his stomach shrank as he pictured the weeping faces of his parents. Should he lie to them? Tell them that Abel had fallen from a cliff or been attacked by lions? An endless stream of thoughts flooded his head and for the first time, Cain felt the horrible feeling called guilt.

He ran for hours. He ran from the scene of his brother’s murder, he ran from the thought of his parents’ sorrow, but mostly he ran from himself. He ran out of a field of grass and fell exhausted onto a plain filled with sand. His lungs burned and his legs could carry him no further.

He began to cry at the thought that he would never see his brother again. Abel’s smiling face and happy nature had been erased by his own hand. He could never talk to Abel about what was bothering him or what he had found under a rock earlier that day. The peaceful days of innocent life had been shattered and he knew that he would never have them again.

A man walked into Cain’s vision. He looked up and saw the awesome visage of his Creator staring down at him. Cain stood with much effort and tried to keep as composed as he could.

Where is your brother Cain?” asked the Creator with a soothing voice. Cain wanted to tell It the truth, but the shame of what he had done kept the words from coming out. He knew it was impossible to lie to the Creator, yet he could not bring himself to tell It what he had done.

Instead Cain answered back, “I don’t know where Abel runs off to all the time. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Creator looked at Cain with a tender smile and said, “Yes, you are.” Cain kept back the flood of emotion that screamed in his heart. But the Creator could hear it, even if Cain hid it.

Why do you lie to me, Cain?” asked the Creator. “I was there when your parents told you about my omnipotence. Even in your mind I can see that you haven’t forgotten that. Why don’t you tell me the truth?”

“Why do you ask me if you already know the answer?” asked Cain between sobs. The Creator balanced playfully on one foot as if It was not paying attention to Cain at all.

Because I want to hear you say it,” said the Creator. Cain’s eyes welled up with tears.

“It was an accident, I didn’t mean to…”

Yes you did,” interrupted the Creator. “For a single moment you hated your brother enough to want to kill him. That led you to attack him, which led to the circumstances surrounding Abel’s accidental death. In the end it is still your fault, whether you meant it or not.”

“Please forgive me Lord, I beg of you,” Cain pleaded with every fiber of his being, hoping the Creator would give him a second chance like It gave his parents.

Why should I forgive you? It was not my brother you killed, it was not my son. No, forgiveness will not come from me.”

“I don’t understand,” said Cain in confusion.

One day you will. Now then, we will proceed to the reason of why I’ve come here.”

Cain began to tremble. He knew what was coming. He could not escape the punishment he knew he deserved. It was foolish to delay the inevitable.

“What will my punishment be?” asked Cain with the voice of a mouse. The Creator looked up at the sky, seemingly distracted.

Punishment? Yes, I suppose I should. The fact that you will never see your brother again is not punishment enough.” Cain looked up at the Creator surprised by its words.

“Wait, what? Why did you change your mind? Won’t I die for what I’ve done?” asked an unbelieving Cain.

By sacrificing your brother, you have cleared your sin. I will never require an offering from you for the rest of your life. But what you’ve done is terrible indeed. The needless loss of human life will become a problem in the future. Your actions have sealed the fate of the world for the rest of eternity. I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree,” said an amused Creator. “Therefore I shall give you the mark of the first murderer. With this you will never forget what you’ve done.”

The Creator opened Its mouth and a word escaped from it that wrapped itself around Cain’s body. A searing flash of pain was all Cain felt before he lost consciousness.

When he awoke, his face burned with a numbing pain. Cain felt his face to see what had happened. When he touched his cheeks he felt his brother’s cheeks. When he examined his hair he found that it was long and flowing like his brother’s. Cain scrambled to find some nearby water. When he looked at his reflection, his brother stared back at him. Cain let out a scream that made the Creator watching him from the clouds regret his decision… but only for a moment.



© 2010 Robert Ulysses Wright


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Added on December 29, 2010
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Author

Robert Ulysses Wright
Robert Ulysses Wright

Seattle, WA



About
I am a writer. I enjoy history, biblical literature and the interactions of humans as they journey through life. I hope to get to know you all a little better as we journey together on this quest to f.. more..

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