A passage in the Bible prompted this story, John 10:16, which reads "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and they shall become one flock, one shepherd." Most interpret this as Jesus referring to other nations of humans on our planet. I prefer to think it has a broader view, and that it refers to populations of other worlds, not limited to our own.
I like to think that in this passage Jesus alludes to work He has left to do with other worlds and other civilizations. In my mind, this passage helps explain how a protagonist such as mine might have come to be.
This short story is my spin on how one of those worlds might have come about.
All text, images, and coding on this page copyright © The Silver Coyote, 2008
9 June 2008
The forest was thick and verdant, teeming with life as only a lush, vibrant forest can be. Living pillars of wood stretched mighty limbs up and up, spreading as they rose higher and higher overhead, as if in praise. The mighty sequoia were thirty feet across at their base and towered two hundred feet or more, yet amongst them also were found pines, firs, and oaks, and below them the shadowy forest floor was covered with various greenery including wildflowers of all colors, ferns, azaleas, manzanita, and clover. In the middle of this forest a small meadow was open to the vaulted ceiling of the sky, it's thick grasses waving gently in a cool breeze. A glacial breath whispered gently, coasting down from the icy mantles clinging to the granite and dolomite crests of the high shining mountains that seemed to surround everything, sighing into the huge trees and their smaller cousins, causing an occasional leaf or needle to dip and dive, pirouetting in it's descent from high above. These fell to combine with the grasses and flowers and smaller vegetation on the forest floor to create a fine carpet, soft under the feet of any who might pass.
None would now.
The sun was half way down the sky, seeming to play tag with the billowing white clouds that rode the wind from the crests, its warmth and light cascading from the crystal blue heavens through the canopy above, filtered and softened by the time it fell to the eyes of the lamb. The pristine beauty of his surroundings was lost on the small ovid standing on the edge of the meadow. His mouth twisted in uncertainty.
“I am... disappointed,” a voice rumbled to the lamb's left. A noise that was part sigh, part rumbling growl, followed this quiet pronouncement.
The lamb gazed upon the meadow with a timeless sorrow. How could this have happened?
There was a patch of barren earth in the meadow, still smoldering even as the depression slowly filled itself in from below. Within moments, he knew, it would fade completely from view, and the meadow would once again be perfect. Yet in that fading scene the first chapter had been irrevocably closed, lost to the eons, finished but never forgotten.
The hairless ones had failed.
“What did we do?” a small voice asked. The lamb realized it was his own.
The head that turned to fix him with it's golden eyes was huge, regal, powerful, ageless yet ancient. Those golden eyes had seen the creation, had carefully guided the crafting of those who came first, had twinkled and shone brightly with pleasure as the First Couple had taken breath and stood erect, ready to fulfill their covenant.
Now those golden orbs were clouded with anger and sorrow. The lion sighed that rumbling growl-sigh again, the sound projecting the emotions of regret and dejection clearly to the ears of the lamb. The golden eyes fell to the carpeted earth between them as the massive shoulders drooped almost imperceptibly. The head shook ponderously, slowly, from side to side in the negative.
The lamb drew a sharp breath. “We cannot do that,” he protested.
The leonine head snapped up to fix the ovid with a steely gaze. “If I say we failed, we failed. I will it to be so.”
The lamb fell to it's knees in supplication, not terrified, but certainly in awe of the power in the lion's voice. “I'm sorry. I meant no offense.”
“None taken,” the lion said in a much softer voice.
The First Couple had failed their only test. The garden had been built with loving care, and they had been given free reign, mastery and stewardship over all except the One. The Couple had named the lesser beings and the things that grew upon the surface, flew above, and swam below. They had been given each other, to perfectly compliment one another and to be a coupled force that would create nations.
And the One had been their downfall. Clearly instructed to leave it alone, they had almost immediately sought it's counsel and striven for it's knowledge.
At first He had been angry and spoken of banishment. It was His plan to cast them out, to make them and the succeeding generations suffer pain and humiliation and indignity across the ages until the new covenant could be crafted and perfected. That new covenant would right all wrongs and once again bind the First Couple and their descendants to His breast, lambs returning to the flock.
But then He had taken a moment to consider His position.
They were His creation. They should have been perfect. But they weren't. What had happened?
As the Son had pondered the meadow, the mighty machine that was His mind considered the prospect of failure. Failure was not an end as much as it was a result of certain decisions and an ordered sequence of events. Things didn't just “go wrong,” they were made that way, destined to go wrong, to misbehave, to backfire. Their failure was designed in from the outset, a preordained end result. If First Couple had somehow failed to configure and enable properly, then it had to be because of something He and his Son had done, or not done, in an improper manner or incorrect sequence.
The lion sighed yet again and slowly sat down on a large, sun-warmed granite boulder next to the lamb. As He did so a gentle buzzing, barely perceptible at first, began to fill the air. The events of a few moments ago had silenced the forest population. Now the small creatures of the forest we're beginning to return to their industry, flies and bees and crickets, food for the blue jays and starlings that called to each other when they discovered some in the floor cover. Squirrels and rabbits nibbled here and there on food they fancied, nuts and berries, leaves and grasses, while the lowly coyote prowled in the shade of the trees, watching for one that became too engrossed in it's meal. Overhead a lone eagle circled lazily in the sunlight, watching it all, equally busy preparing for a meal of it's own. Following the event that had led to that smoldering hole in the meadow, which had startled all the forest's inhabitants to a stunned silence, things were returning to normal.
And the lion considered, deep in thought.
And the lamb watched.
The eagle drifted overhead, riding the gentle updrafts caused by the sun's warmth heating the meadow. The muted buzz filled the air, mixing with the distant calls of song birds and the rustle of the grasses in the breeze that sighed quietly in the trees. It was an infectious sound, causing one who was tranquil in the sunlight to become drowsy. The lamb was not sleepy, however, but attentive. Big Things were about to happen.
“It's this free will thing,” the lion said presently. “If you give them a choice, they will almost always make the wrong decision.”
The lamb cleared his throat. “That's not fair,” the Son said carefully. “You've only had the one failure...”
It was a poorly worded statement to say the least, and the lamb winced at the iron gaze that came to him from the lion.
“These others,” the lion said slowly, raising a paw in an arc before Him to take in the forest and all it's inhabitants, “they honor and love me because they don't know any other way to behave. They function well as part of the layered society we have made for them. Each has it's purpose, it's role to play, in the Grand Production. They perform perfectly because we have made them to be so. They know no other way to be.”
The lion sighed.
“I find it... vacuous.”
“They meet my expectations. There is no joy in what they do, they do what they are told.”
“Of course,” the lamb replied carefully. “It is how you made them.”
“And it leaves me feeling empty. Pleased by my creation, but not rewarded by it's activity. There are no surprises, no sudden realizations or revelations about the mystery of life in this clockwork mechanism we have built. Everything goes according to plan. These beings work perfectly, but they do not think. They perform, but do not act.”
“How would you have it otherwise?” the lamb asked.
“We must have a species, the species, who thinks and acts for themselves. They must be able to choose to honor us. They must possess the free will to deny us, but choose not to. They must make a conscious choice to recognize our existence and authority, even in the absence of physical evidence to support the belief. I call this faith. It does me honor, and I must have it.”
“You gave the hairless ones free will in abundance, father. They made use of it and disappointed you. They were destined to do so. Why does this trouble you? Is it not preordained?”
Again the iron gaze. “That legless one is a troublemaker.”
“The hairless ones had little knowledge of serpents by your design. They are an unknown in the garden.”
The lion nodded, silent. The conversation died amicably.
It was growing hot in the afternoon. The eagle had settled in a high branch of one of the mighty sequoia on the edge of the meadow, content to wait in the shade of it's canopy for the cooler breezes of the evening in which to fly and hunt. A few hundred feet away the coyote had reclined beneath a stubby sugarpine tree, panting slightly in the shade, also awaiting the evening. In the meadow the smaller inhabitants, somehow intuitively understanding that their hunters were dozing, redoubled their efforts at feeding and procreating. A gust of cool wind pushed it's way across the meadow, and the tall trees bent slightly to acknowledge their pleasure and thanks. Pine needles fell in abundance around the coyote's muzzle as he lay his head in the dust.
“So perhaps,” the lion growled after several minutes had passed, “we should have given the hairless ones a more general awareness of their larger surroundings, at the expense of higher thinking.”
The lamb smiled slightly, understanding coming quickly to him. “Why compromise? It is within your purview to have them contain as much or as little understanding as you want, and to have them possess the free will you desire them to have.”
For the first time since the hairless ones had consumed the fruit, the lion smiled slightly. “It is true.”
“Why don't we try it again?” Here the lamb's smile grew broad. “Except this time, lets try something a little better adapted to the garden you have created for them. Give them the awareness of their surroundings, of the dangers that are here, and give them the higher thinking and free will that allows you to be honored by them in the way you so richly deserve.”
The smile on the lion's muzzle grew slightly as well. “I foresee a time,” He remarked ironically, “when those who employ your methods of persuasion will govern mighty nations, and be almost universally despised.”
The lamb nodded, his countenance soft, yet there was a determination in the set of the Son's jaw. The lion knew that the steel of nations would rail against Him one day, and that He would stand tall against it and persevere. Timid to look upon, this lamb was nevertheless as strong, as powerful, and as intelligent as was the lion, and He knew it.
“Your words are true, Son.”
Now the smile became a grin. “Of course they are. How could you suspect otherwise?”
“Should we design anew? What shall we create, you and I?”
“You have a rich tapestry to choose from, Father.” Here the lamb raised a hoof to gesture towards the meadow before them. “Why build anew when you have so many able and willing candidates at your feet, waiting for your word?”
The lion gazed upon the meadow for a long period of time after that, nodding slowly now and then. The droning buzz of the insects was a soft song in the ears of the Creator, and He took small pleasure in simply listening for a while as He pondered his son's suggestion. Again a gust of cool air rushed through the trees and across the grassy meadow, and for a moment the inhabitants stopped their daily routine.
The lion grunted quietly, as an elder might, rousing himself from His warm rock to stand erect. He cleared His throat briefly.
“You!” His voice carried clearly, almost like a peal of thunder, across the meadow. A raised arm, an extended claw, pointed at the squirrel. “Come here!”
From her perch in the sequoia the eagle watched as the squirrel immediately dropped the pine nut it had been working on and scampered towards the rock the lion stood upon.
“And you!” the lion roared again, indicating the rabbit. “Come to me!”
The coyote raised it's head, looking first at the eagle, and then towards the rock the rabbit was even now hopping towards. He shook his head slightly to get the dust out of the fur around his muzzle, and opened his mouth slightly to pant a bit in the heat of the afternoon.
“And you!” The claw pointed directly at the bridge of the coyote's nose. “Come here!”
The lion turned and grinned briefly at the lamb as the coyote trotted towards them.
“This will be fun,” He said, His eyes alight with the expectation of good things.
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