Springingtiger's Blog


Cain: At The Edge Of The Universe.

National Novel Writing Month is once again upon us and I haven’t even managed to register. Under the circumstances I thought I’d better just get writing. I said some time ago that, by way of an experiment, I would try to post the whole novel (unedited obviously) in daily instalments over the month. Here’s the first.

Disclaimer: Whereas ‘Brianna: A Life Between Lives’ had a certain didactic purpose, ‘Cain: At The Edge Of The Universe’ is designed to be an entertainment. If it should stimulate reflection that is merely a bonus.

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Chapter One: Cain the Murderer.

I am Cain.. I have been called many names, but I am Cain. Cain the Accursed. Cain the first murderer. The first murderer, but not the worst murderer. Indeed with a more sophisticated legal comprehension that first murder may even be seen not as murder, but manslaughter. That first murder may have been manslaughter, I have done much worse since.

Cain the Accursed. Cursed to wander the Earth for ever. I had thought our God had meant for a life time, I was wrong when he said ‘for ever’ he meant forever. In later centuries I hoped for a while that he might be persuaded to change his mind, but by then the Old Gods had retreated from the world of Men and were not available for converse as once they had been. I had hoped that when God had said the Earth he had meant that one beautiful planet where humanity was born, my presence here beyond the colonised Outer Planets shows my hopes were ill founded.

Perhaps I should excuse myself now for my generic use of ‘Men’ for humanity. It is a habit born of many centuries informed by prejudice. I am sorry to say that although humanity has extended itself throughout the habitable universe, its attitudes have shifted more slowly. Technology has ever advanced more rapidly than the attitudes of men.

However to continue. You probably know the Bible story of my first murder…or perhaps you don’t. Do people ever read the old scriptures now, so many of them seem relevant only to the Earth upon which they were written? Back in the early days every tribe, every family had its own God or gods and they were each a ‘jealous God’ locked in a rivalry with their fellows to maximise their following. As as often been theorised I think the Gods needed us as much, or more, as we needed them. Our God had, in order to protect his core group of worshippers established my parents in an enclave that provided fore their every need. Of course, being a God he gave them certain rules to obey because that’s what Gods do. Gods require obedience and worship. I suspect that when they despaired of human obedience they left the Earth…I have encountered one or two since I too left. I think its fair to say that Gods’ biggest weakness lies in a failure to grasp human psychology. They brought humans into being and then gave them rules…what child has ever obeyed rules? Rules are a challenge a tool to gauge the limits of permissible behaviour, Needless to say, as you know, my parents broke the rule not to enquire and think for themselves (nothing to do with apples!) and God punished them. Basically he told them that if they thought they could think for themselves, they could do everything for themselves and goodbye to the Garden of Eden.

However neither my parents nor their God could manage without each other and so he continued to keep an eye on things, but on a less intimate level than before. No more cosy chats in the garden, just instructions. As he was my parent’s God he was, by default mine and in turn my siblings. The problem with Gods is they tend to be somewhat partisan which is bad enough when they are pitting one tribe against another, but even more of a problem when they favour one family member over another. As long as I was an only child God, like any other grandfather, doted on me. It was God as much as my father who taught me how to cultivate plants. I was a good gardener, the wheat I created back then made better flour than any you’ll find today. I admit it didn’t rise as well, but it never caused bloating and its flavour was such that it needed no accompaniment. Gods demand worship and so I gave my grandfather the best of every crop and he was pleased. I think that it was my first cultivated apple that so impressed him that it made its way into the folklore of my parents’ punishment. Life was good and then my brother Abel was born.

I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but Abel was an annoying little shit! A nasty tell-tale. He used to run to my parents and worse to Grandfather with his tales, many of them lies,’ Cain did this’ and, ‘Cain did that’, ‘Cain said this’ and ‘Cain said that’ and life ceased to be fun. Worse still Abel was a crawler. He was always the one to hang around my parents being a good little boy and he stole Grandfather from me.

I cared for plants so Abel had to be different, he had to care for animals. I had an undeniable advantage we could eat plants, but animals were only useful for pulling the plough and for providing fertiliser. It was Abel who gave God his taste for blood. Abel realised that as long as Grandfather enjoyed the food that only I could offer I always had the advantage. Yes my parents and Grandfather loved Abel, so sweet, so cloyingly good, but they needed me. Abel began to experiment, horrible experiments, Abel discovered meat. Abel realised that the fire that baked the bread might also be used to cook the flesh of animals.

And so it came to pass that one day when I presented my bread to God, Abel added that my bread might well be good enough to mop up the juices of his meat. He then placed a piece of meat upon my loaf. Grandfather tasted that meat and he liked it. Until then we had not eaten meat, but Grandfather having tasted it wanted more and everyday. My beautiful bread became nothing more than a plate, my herbs and vegetables demoted to serve as accompaniments to Abel’s slaughtered sheep and Grandfather daily consumed more of the sweet flesh and fat. In time he would demand the slaughter of nations, but for now he was satisfied with sheep.

Abel became more annoying that ever, ordering me around, telling me what and when to bake, but always ensuring his butchered meat was the centrepiece of any meal. Day in and day out I had to endure his boasting about how Grandfather preferred him to me, loved him better than me. He said it was a pity I was only good for growing vegetables whereas he had the imagination to discover meat. If I objected that we had hitherto shared the land with the animals, Abel would laugh and say that sheep were too stupid for ought but eating. And so it continued every day until one day as he ate, Grandfather said,

“It’s a pity you can’t be more like your brother Abel. He’s such a good boy, clever too!”

I replied, “Lord if you want me to be like Abel, then today I shall be like Abel.” And then I left. Abel followed me as I stalked off into the fields. All the way mocking me and saying that I could never be like him, I would never have the stomach for killing. He mocked me for talking to my plants, for thanking them for feeding me. He reached down and tore a handful of green grain from the soil and laughed as he called it animal feed. Some dam inside me burst and before I knew what I had done Abel lay dead on the ground his blood all over my stone knife. I buried Abel where he had died. I walked for a while and went home.

It was the increased growth in the plants on Abel’s grave that gave me away. When Grandfather had demanded to know where Abel was I had sought to avoid answering, but my own wheat betrayed me. It was then that God cursed me to wander. At the time I was grateful when he said that no man would kill me. I had not then realised just what his curse meant. I had thought I would live and die like any other human being. I was wrong. The Old Gods might not have created the universe (for all their claims), but they had the knowledge and power to bend its rules to their will. Some people might think to live forever a blessing, but I had not realised that God was condemning me to suffer loss again and again and that was his punishment. He have me life, but not freedom from pain or injury. The diseases that destroyed whole populations I would survive, but not without suffering. Where I went sorrow and the loss of loved ones followed and so as condemned I wandered.

First I wandered East towards the sunrise. I was a farmer, I loved the Sun. Since then I have seen a thousand suns and many more, but then we knew but one that rose each day and fed the fields. I travelled east each morning with the sun in my face to lead me and each afternoon upon my back to warm me towards my bed and when the sun went to bed so did I and it was a cold and lonely bed cast out from my people and the Grandfather I both loved and hated. It was in the cold of the night that the despair hit me with a realisation of the enormity of what I had done. As I understood that I would never again see my mother’s face I discovered loss for the first time. I remembered Abel as a baby and reflected how differently thing might have turned out if perhaps I had treated him differently and wondered how much of my fate I had brought upon myself. The cold of the night was nowhere near as cold as the loneliness that filled me then as I lay in the darkness trying to sleep, bewailing my state and berating myself for mine own stupidity. Oh if only I could have continued to bottle up my anger and resentment I should still have been at home. Even the indignity of living in Abel’s shadow had to be better than this loneliness and this was only my first night away from home. Not home…I no longer had a home.

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