"Before you is the tree. Once, a tree full of life. Its fruit plentiful and infinite in its wisdom. The beginning of all things. The seed of life. His gift to us.The tree of knowledge, now the burning bush, an echo of Him. Our salvation. The tree is dying, its flame withering, the knowledge fading. It fades because the knowledge base has severed its connection with us. The gift in which I gave unto all has been cast aside in these dark times."
He looked on to the burning tree and listened to the crackling of its bark, simmering into oblivion. The tree of knowledge? His young unfocused mind was beginning to piece together the puzzle before him. Then a faint voice echoed all around him, which seemed to have affected the woman clutching his hand.
"Our Lord, the true prince of time, gave us the power, contained within the fruit of this tree, consumed by me, my gift unto all mankind, banished for my sins from the garden of Eden-"
"Eve!" The voice now closer was heard shouting.
The name enraged the woman gripping his hand, turning to him, her face noshing fangs and her eyes like two exploding stars, burning with a fire he could feel within his chest. It all happened within a fraction of a second, the force of her hand pulling him towards her, her face bent and angry, her mouth gaping with needle-like teeth zeroing in on the veins of his neck.
An arm pierced through the darkened void, grabbing the woman's head, pulling it safely away from the shaken young man. A second arm fought through the void and wrapped around her waist, pulling her against the nothing. She released her grip, struggling with her unseen attacker. Her once perfect face now reptilian in appearance, strained and hissed, lashing at the air with her long pink tongue, the slit of her eyes never leaving sight of its target. His own disbelief kept him trapped within her Medusa-like gaze, which allowed her to make a final attempt at his throat. Unable to see the whiplash of her serpentine tail, coiling at his neck and squeezing, the last thing he could recall was the sound of his own neck snapping.
11:49pm The eve of Halloween
Norman Hallows sprung up from his bed, his momentum carrying him off the side onto the floor. He could still feel the pressure around his neck, finding a new appreciation for the air rushing into his lungs. His bedroom door opened, with a shadowy hand flicking the light switch on the wall.
"Norman. Are you all right?" His mother asked, helping him back into his bed.
"Yeah mom, I'm fine. Just had...a strange dream."
"Probably had too much to eat earlier."
His mother placed the covers back over him. She smiled. Her smile reminded him of the woman from his dream.
"Mother. Do you remember the story you once told me as a child, the one about the burning tree?"
"The Apple of Sodom. I remember."
"Tell it to me again."
The request caught her off guard. Nevertheless, she continued to smile at her son, and then told the story once more to him. The story he remembered was of an unfaithful Thane, whose wife suspected him of adultery. She claimed he had been seen, dressed as a woman to avoid detection from the King's royal guard, spending long nights inside his harem of whores. The Thane swore on his life and land that his heart belonged to his suspicious wife; but, she wanted more than a politician's promise. She expressed her concerns to her King, who immediately turned to a local Warlock, promising him asylum within his Kingdom to practice his dark arts in return for his services. The Warlock concocted a potion that he then used to soak apple seeds with, planting them in the royal orchard. The magical tree grew quickly, sprouting its fruit that was then placed inside the King's harem. When the Thane finally showed himself again, he indulged in the King's ripest fruits and finest wines as well as his best women, relishing in not only pulling the wool over his wife's eyes, but those of his old foolish King.
The next evening, the Thane's wife woke to find that her husband had not yet returned from his labors. She set out to inform the King who, along with the Thane's wife, went to his harem. Each whore was dressed in evening attire, all wearing ceremonial mask and long white veils. It was consider disrespectful to know the identity of the harem, therefore, the King could not simply have them remove their mask and reveal their true selves. Instead, he ordered them to stand in a line, calling for his Warlock. He stood at arms length, inspecting each one, without a single touch or word expressed. He paused before one of the women, who did all she could not to tremble.
"This is your man." He said.
"Are you Sure?" asked the King.
"Quite sure, your majesty. The fruit is filled with a non-lethal poison that irritates the throat in males, breaking out in a rash that is further agitated by one scratching at the infection, as this one has been doing."
The Thane dropped to his knees and begged for mercy. His wife broke out into tears, insulted in the highest regard a man could hand to his spouse. The King took no mercy. The Thane would be hung by the neck from the very tree that bore the fruit, as a gift to his new bride, and then immediately set fire to. His execution would be both a warning and lesson to those who dared commit acts against one of God's most sinful commandments. His land would become an Apple orchard, and the wife would wed the King, for his pity for her was great and merciful.
"Okay. That would explain the dream. Why would you tell that to a child?"
She sat quiet for a moment, and then took her son by the hand.
"Now, your turn to tell me a story. This dream, you saw a burning tree? Was that all?"
Norman told his mother about his dream, the woman and how she turned into a snake. But, it was the voice calling out to him that peeked her interest the most.
"Do you know who it was?" She asked.
"It...sounded a bit like...dad."
She leaned over and kissed him on his forehead.
"Enough stories for now. You get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be a big day for you. For us all."
As she started to shut the door, Norman called to again.
"Mother. The woman, from my dream...she mentioned the Garden of Eden. Wasn't that the name of the Thane's wife from the story?"
His mother switched off his light. She lowered her head as she half nodded. "Yes, son. It was."
Norman lay in his bed. He turned to the clock on his bedside table. 12:00am
"Halloween. Never liked the day much, myself." He said as his eyes closed and he feel back to sleep.
Norman's mother slipped back into her bed, trying not to disturb her husband.
"Everything all right dear?"
"Yes, my love. Norman just had a nightmare is all. He is fine now."
"Do you need me to go check on him too?"
"No. You go back to sleep too."
She lay silent, looking up to the ceiling. The worry of a mother was beginning to cause a light sweat to develop on her forehead. Halloween was upon them. 18 years had come and went too quickly, she thought. She turned to her husband and held him close.
"Goodnight, My sweet Adam."