AFTER EDEN: chapter two

p(#post-body). After collecting the long net, I returned to the pasture and found the snake was no longer floating above it.

p(#post-body). I spent an hour or two plodding slowly through the terrarium's open fields with my neck craning space-ward, looking for movement against the black. But my snake is black and small, and our glassed-in sky is dark and vast.

p(#post-body). Finally, I surrender.

p(micah). Eve?

p(eve). Good morning, Micah.

p(micah). Where is the snake, eve?

p(eve). The snake is in the Orchard, Micah.

p(#post-body). I am relieved - the orchard is just a hundred or so meters away.

p(micah). Is he floating in the air, or has he gotten caught in a tree?

p(eve). I'm afraid it's not good, Micah.

p(#post-body). Oh, no: _the Orchard._

p(micah). Not the intake!

p(eve). The snake is caught in the intake.

p(#post-body). I hurry through the field, and then abandon home ground all together and launch myself toward the nearest tree. I chastise myself for hurrying at all as I catch hold of one of the big branches and propel myself to the next tree. If the snake has gotten caught against the grate of the intake above the orchard, he most certainly is dead and my hurrying won't mean anything. It dawns on me...

p(#post-body). There are times I foolishly forget that I can extend my perceptions into others, and I do so now: First I reach out for the snake, and find that I am unable to place myself in him. It's a pretty sure bet that he's dead. As I catch the next tree, I halt my velocity and change course: I redirect myself back down to home ground and slowly push myself down the trunk.

p(micah). He's dead, isn't he?

p(#post-body). I say as I reach home ground.

p(eve). I'm afraid I'm unable to connect. It is extremely likely it has perished.

p(#post-body). It could be much worse than a dead snake held against a metal grate by the suction of recirculated air.

p(#post-body). I move through the thicket of vines and brush on the northern edge of the orchard, and as I do I sense a cat nearby. I extend myself into her, register her perceptions as she moves lithely through the tall grasses, hunting the mice that scale the stalks and snare slow insects and floating seeds as they pass by. She's hungry, the cat, and she sees a mouse nearby. The mouse is looking up, possibly toward the grate, and I realize that I have only a few moments to access the mouse's perceptions before the cat has killed her. I make the swap and fall into the mouse.

p(#post-body). Experience has taught me that swapping perceptual sets so quickly is not advisable. Each animal has access to varying levels of sensory input, and moving suddenly from the vision inputs of a cat, say, which has excellent eyesight, immediately into those of a mouse, whose degree of nearsightedness and colorblindness is astounding, can be quite bewildering. My visual registry scrambles as I make the jump, and I confuse my own vision for the mouse's as my primary input, miss the vine I'm reaching for, and tumble headfirst in a particularly briar-ridden patch of thicket. Still, I'm in the mouse, now, and while she sees little that is helpful to me, her nose is high in the air, and she smells iron. _Blood._ It's going to be messy over there.

p(#post-body). A surge of adrenaline and waves of shock and searing pain assault the mouse's little mind as the cat lands on her and breaks her neck, and I reel from the overwhelming and nauseating nature of the inputs, jamming myself more thickly into the briars.

p(#post-body). Eve reacts swiftly, as she is designed to, and temporarily blocks the sensory exchange network. My mind clears. I regain my sense of self, locate myself in space. I hear a cry of alarm - a surprised yowl - in the orchard. The cat must've been accessing the network as well when Eve shut it down.

p(eve). Micah, you must be more careful.

p(micah). I'm sorry, Eve. I knew better. Thank you for cutting the connection.

p(eve). You are welcome. You really should consider maintaining a steady position when you are choosing to receive perceptual inputs from others.

p(micah). Agreed.

p(eve). You should also consider moving more slowly. If you had missed your intended branches -

p(micah). I know.

p(eve). - you would've maintained your velocity and struck the dome.

p(micah). I know.

p(eve). You could've suffered considerable harm. There is no one to help you if you are incapacitated, Micah.

p(micah). I'm sorry, Eve. I won't do it again.

p(#post-body). I pull myself from the thicket. The thorns have torn little pricks into my skin and tiny beads of my blood form at their openings. I remember in the documentary recordings Eve has shared with me of our Creators - that they covered themselves in elaborately structured coverings composed of woven fibers. _Clothing_. Picking thorns from my flesh, I find myself wishing that such options had been made available to me.

p(#post-body). The scene in the orchard is just nasty: The cat floats freely a few feet from home ground, hissing furiously at her predicament and scratching wildly at the grasses and tree limbs, trying to find purchase. If I thought the snake was a difficult object to recover, an angry, thrashing cat is immensely more unpleasant. The mouse's body is moving steadily out of the orchard and toward the dome, twitching and casting a beady trail of blood onto the air behind it as it goes. And the snake.

p(#post-body). Pieces of the snake's body have been sucked through the grate and into the intake's machinery. That the snake's flesh is broken would indicate to me that all of his blood has been drawn into the intake, as well. Which will require disassembly and thorough cleaning.

p(#post-body). A memory from my childhood: My father used to express himself with a very specific word when he was exasperated with the conditions around him. Eve doesn't care for my use of it, but from time to time it does the job.

p(micah). Fuck.

p(eve). Micah, please?