He Ate It
Aby, Eby, Olay, Kaal, Taba, Sal and Hab lived on Eden Island. We don’t know their real names if they had any. Those were the names we chose for them. Eden was even the name we chose for the island too. We had been sailing for twenty days heading for Fiji when we ran into that no-name island. It was not on any maps. It had never been. It was not so small however as to be so missed.
In our seven-day stay at their island, they didn’t talk to us. They didn’t notice us. May be we were invisible to them, we thought. We sat close to them, close to each one of them. We sat between them. They didn’t notice our presence. We talked to them. We loudened our voices. They didn’t seem to feel our presence. They were supposedly human beings like us. They had faces with those surface markings we all have: the eyes, the nose, the mouth. Strangely enough their faces were so blank though. You could never tell if they were sad, happy, angry or afraid even if you kept staring at their faces for hours like we did. Their faces sent virtually no messages. And more strange was their behavior. Each of them either would sit still for hours or walk and move around rather slowly through the lands and shores of Eden. They were all in their fourth decade. Thoughtful; they all seemed thoughtful all the time. That might be the only useful piece of information that you can get out of the long hours of observing them. And nature around them was so rich, the sea, the greenery, the skies. And that richness too was so calm and serene like its inhabitants.
Aby, Eby, Olay, Kaal, Taba, Sal and Hab never talked to each other. They never talked. In fact, none of them ever seemed to notice that the others were around. None of them ever seemed to notice that the others existed in the first place. They never ate or drank, never. They never slept and never looked tired. Man or woman; you could not tell. You could not tell if any of them was a man or a woman. Observing them, your head might be so buzzed by their silence that you even forget to guess if they were males or females. May be they were neither. Yes, they were neither.
There were three sea gulls continually flying around. There was a big tiger too. It sat there in a shady spot most of the time. The local aliens didn’t seem alarmed. In fact, they hardly noticed its presence.
Aby, Eby, Olay, Kaal, Taba, Sal and Hab didn’t seem to need. They didn’t seem to need anything. None of them needed to eat or drink. None of them needed to rest or sleep. None of them needed to care for anybody or be cared for by anybody. None of them needed to fear or hide from a wild animal. None of them needed or cared to communicate with anybody whether that was his/her/its alien colleagues or us.
When we returned back to our homes we didn’t believe it when we read that Rahala, a famous ancient sailor and round-the-world traveler, had described that island that he had visited three times in his writings some seven hundred years earlier. Otherwise, no note had ever been made of that island whether in other writings or in any maps ever. In his notes, he wrote that on that big island, that he had called Eternity Island, lived seven weird and silent young adults, three sea gulls and a tiger.
We put Eden on our maps and in our thoughts. We returned back to Eden every year for eight years. We took more and more food each time so that we could stay longer and longer. We never felt we were heavy visitors. We never felt we were light visitors. We never had any clue about how that place felt for us. We never had the slightest clue. But indeed we liked it so much and always looked forward to returning back. Each time throughout the first seven years, Eden was the same place as if we had left it only yesterday, the same peacefulness and serenity, the same cool sunny weather, the same seven persons, the same age, the same activities and autistic behavior, the same three sea gulls and the same big tiger all described several hundred years ago.
In the eighth year, however, everything was suddenly so different. For the first time, Eden was cloudy, Eby, Kaal and Sal were missing and so was one sea gull. The tiger too was missing. Aby, Olay, Taba and Hab were not meditating anymore. Aby was cutting trees, Olay was breast-feeding a baby, Taba and Hab were eating. We could now easily tell that Aby and Taba were men and that Olay and Hab were women. It was so clear. How come we could never tell before? Their genitals were covered with small pieces of some rich dark orange fur-costume with finely arranged black strips. They all looked so much older than they were last year. For the first time, we saw them talk and communicate with each other.
I walked down towards them. For the first time it seemed, and to my surprise, they all noticed the presence of a stranger. They all turned their heads towards me. What happened? I have been walking around them and between them and have sometimes been sitting beside them for years now and this had always passed unnoticed. What happened? As I moved further, they all started to make moves too. Olay stood back holding her baby deep in her arms, Aby left the tree he had almost finished cutting and ran quickly towards his woman, Olay, keeping his axe in his hand. Taba stepped forward with wide ready anticipating eyes and an axe in his hand too and Hab briskly stood up and stepped back startled by my presence. And to add more surprises to our last trip to Eden, I saw it. I saw it for the first time. I saw it for the first time in their eyes. I saw it especially in Olay’s and Hab’s eyes. For eight years, I never thought this would ever happen. Fear! Yes, I saw fear in their eyes. Their faces spoke and I listened. Oh, how wonderful. We could now communicate for the first time. Oh, but why? Why were they afraid? They had never seemed to be afraid before. I told them I was a friend and there was no need to be afraid. There was a long pause and everything stood still. Then Hab hesitantly stepped forward towards me with her sad eyes towards the skies and most sorrowfully said “He ate the apple”.
We packed our things and left Eden. We never returned back. We never felt we needed to return back. We rubbed out Eden from our maps and went on with our lives.
This story was written by Hatem Eleishi in 2005