I rubbed my forehead and looked up at the person rude enough to run into me.
“Orpheus? What are you doing here?”
The bard grimaced. “What do you think?”
I frowned at him. “You’re in the doghouse again? What did you do this time?”
Orpheus rolled his eyes. “No, I’m not in the doghouse, as you so charmingly put it. Eurie got bored of our section of the Netherworlds and applied for a transfer. So now I’m here. In Hell. May Hades have mercy.”
My eyes narrowed.
Hades did indeed have mercy. Too much at times, in my opinion.
“You could go to Heaven, you know. Or Purgatory. No need to hang around here even if your wife is here.”
“Eh. Been there, got bored, figured I would have more fun trying to cajole your story out of you. It’s just so… cold here. Why does Lucifer keep this section of Hell so cold? I thought it was supposed to be fire everywhere.”
Now that he mentioned it, the bard did look a bit blue. No wonder, since he was wandering around in a skimpy linen chiton and sandals.
I conjured up a furry cloak and tossed it at him. “Lucifer runs hot. So does Lilith. They like it cold and the rest of us like how the cold has a pacifying effect on them. Besides, they’re going through a bit of a phase involving a certain song called Let It Go and that thing the humans have about saying when Hell freezes over.”
Their current thing was building fantastical ice castles, each trying to outdo the other while singing at the top of their lungs.
With any luck, the phase would pass.
Then again, I was entirely serious about how the rest of us all preferred the soporific effects of ice upon Lucifer and Lilith.
I wasn’t saying that they were obnoxious as Chaos when they got into one of their moods, but… they were obnoxious as Chaos anyway and anything that slowed them down was a good thing.
“And what about you and Adam?”
I side-eyed him. “You already got shot down by everyone else, didn’t you?” Did he think that we didn’t talk or something? As the Chinese put it, did he think we didn’t sleep together?
Orpheus shrugged and I saw a couple of less diplomatic retorts flash across his face. “But you are not them, are you?
“If you think that’s enough to make me want to tell all, you’re quite sadly wrong.”
“Don’t you want to overturn what history has said about you? Are you content to be known as the meek and foolish one, the one who ended up getting yourself and your husband tossed out of the Garden?”
My turn to shrug. It used to bother me. Some. But then… “Lucifer, Adam, and Lilith somehow managed to write a spell that blocks any mention of our names from appearing in any form before me. It’s been centuries since I’ve seen anything to be upset about.” I gave him my sweetest smile and snapped my fingers, dismissing the fur cloak. “And I wouldn’t repeat what you just said in front of them, or I wouldn’t like your chances of staying with your wife.”
He grimaced, his teeth immediately starting to chatter.
A thought came to me and I nearly laughed aloud. “You didn’t.”
His face twisted further.
Oh ho ho, he did.
I shook my head.
Orpheus really wasn’t the brightest star in the sky, was he?
“You didn’t realize after the first time that your phrasing may have been part of why they tossed you out on your ear?”
And his pitiful lack of garments suddenly made sense. No wonder no one had seen fit to help him.
“Everyone said you didn’t get along,” he sulked.
“Everyone in Heaven, you mean?” A low voice came from behind me, warm arms wrapping around my waist.
Warm, almost too hot to bear.
Orpheus went white. “Lucifer.”
“Tsk tsk. Didn’t I tell you not to bother bothering Eve? Now I know exactly how Hades felt,” Lilith sniped as she shimmered into view beside me. She leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Should I get rid of him for you, love?”
“Nah.” I shook my head. “Eurydice will miss him.”
“That’s the only reason he’s still here, but the man simply doesn’t learn.”
Adam was here too. That meant the chances of everything getting resolved without someone getting turned into a block of ice just went from negative to not in a million universes.
I loved the man, I really did, but Adam’s way of dealing with having his first love ripped away from him was to go from over-protective and vicious to rivaling Cerebus with a bone.
You haven’t seen obsessive possessive until you saw a three-headed dog fight itself for ownership over a particularly choice bit of flesh.
And then there was Lilith.
Take however much love she had for Adam and then add in an unhealthy dose of protectiveness, mix with a terrifying amount of guilt-induced possessiveness, and you had a recipe for disaster and her pre-occupation for keeping me safe.
Out of the three of them, Lucifer was the well-balanced one.
Which, considering he was the one to come up with all the various punishments in Hell, wasn’t precisely reassuring.
“I’ll exchange you the story for your song,” I said, before the situation could escalate further. “An hour of song for every question I answer.”
“Eve,” Lilith chided.
“Orpheus’ song hasn’t been heard in over a thousand years.” He quit singing after the whole debacle with Hades and Eurydice. It was a fair trade.
Orpheus’ face went from white to red to white again.
Lucifer purred, “Well?”
The agreement ended up being that he would play the lyre for me for as long as it took me to tell the story and then sing to me for an hour for every person that heard the story after.
Not a bad deal, especially since there was no harm in it for me.
The spell would take care of any negative press and perhaps he was right about it being the right time to tell our story.
It took some more doing to shoo the others away.
In the end, we compromised.
Lucifer would remain with me to make sure Orpheus behaved, and Adam and Lilith would find something else to do. Elsewhere. Out of earshot.
Why I needed Lucifer as a watchdog I had no idea, since this was Hell and all, but it was what it was.
“It really did start with Lilith. They got that right at least,” I began.
Something to know about how the world began.
Imagine, if you will, that each creator who started a world did so. Much the way that schoolchildren now would blow a bubble.
All these worlds then merged together, also like how bubbles often do, into a larger bubble that is the world we know today. Every world other than what Yehovah called Eden and the Norse called Midgard and the Chinese called renjian was created later. All in response to their original bubbles merging and ruining their plans.
“Wait, Earth is Eden? But what about being tossed out of the Garden? And are you saying that Heaven was created later?” Orpheus’s fingers stilled.
Lucifer twirled his fingers in a circle.
The bard’s jaw set, but he resumed the melody.
“Of course. There could be no Heaven without Earth. Or Eden, as it was originally called. It really wasn’t so much that we were thrown out of the garden anyway, but that the garden as an original concept was lost when Yehovah’s bubble merged with the others. But let’s back up a bit.”
You have to understand that all of these creator gods had a vision.
In today’s parlance, they had a specific way in which they wanted to raise their sims and run their world.
Note that it’s the Garden of Eden.
What does that tell you?
Gardens are arranged to the specifics of their creator’s desire.
Yehovah had set up Eden just the way they wanted it. They’d labored over each and every bit of flora and fauna, delighting in color and whimsy. Then they’d created the angels, bits of AI if you will, to take care of the garden and everything in it. Finally, they came upon the idea of humans. Every other god had them, bits of life made in the gods’ own image. Life that had free will, that would add a note of piquancy.
But then the unthinkable happened as the Universe and Fate have their own whims.
These bubbles were drawn to each other. Instead of being repelled and going off in different directions, they clung to each other. This didn’t worry the creator gods too much. After all, they were still separate.
But now things could cross over from other worlds.
“Things like me, I assume,” Lucifer said dryly.
I shrugged. “If you want to call yourself a thing…”
“Whoa whoa whoa. Wait. What? Lucifer crossed over? He wasn’t part of Eden originally?”
“…no,” Lucifer said. “I am not a creation of Yehovah.”
Raising my brows at him, I waited.
A breath passed, then another, and then Truth compelled him to speak the fullness of his truth.
“Not precisely,” he admitted, tapping me on the nose. “I came from elsewhere, but what happened after I arrived changed me sufficiently to be considered a part of Yehovah’s creations.”
“More co-creator, seeing as Lucifer and Lucifer alone rules over Hell,” I said, to be fair. Even now, with Yehovah mostly absent, the archangel Michael didn’t rule over Heaven.
“So what happened?” Orpheus prodded.
“If you would stop interrupting,” Lucifer snapped back.
I sighed. “Maybe this isn’t worth the hassle.”
“No, no, I’ll behave. Keep going. Please.” He added the last on a glare from Lucifer.
“Another bubble touched Eden, Lucifer was curious, came across, and met Adam and Lilith.”
“And then everything changed,” Orpheus butted in.
I nodded. “And then everything changed.”
“To be fair, it wasn’t Lucifer’s fault,” I clarified.
That was important, to be as scrupulously fair as history hadn’t been.
As we hadn’t been.
As Yehovah hadn’t been.
Although, if we were to be fair, he was a newly fledged godling then and he hadn’t known better either.
Lucifer shrugged. “Every relationship needs a scapegoat. It’s simply unfortunate that I was their’s and I loved them far too much to simply leave.”
Proving that he wasn’t all empty curls and drama, Orpheus asked, “Which they?”
“Whichever they you prefer.” Lucifer’s lush mouth curved without humor. “Eve. It’s your story.”
Sighing, I continued. “Don’t mistake us. Lilith and Adam loved each other. They were made for each other, after all, their souls created in the same thought. However, Eden got just a bit boring after a while.”
I winced as I finished that thought, still expecting some sort of retribution for blasphemy eons past the Garden dissolving into just another bit of Earth.
Legend has it that Adam and Lilith named all the animals and plants, that they had occupations to keep them entertained, but that pretty thought is laughable when one really thinks about it. Even if having to name everything in sight didn’t get tedious after a while – just look at how lazy modern people got with their endless variations of calling things apples that weren’t apples at all – there would have been an end in sight and then what?
The most recent generation liked to think that one man and one woman could be perfectly happy together, a self-sustaining unit with no need of outside help, and it was sheer rubbish. Pure garbage, then and now.
“Imagine having the same thoughts day in and day out, with nothing new to spark something different. No one to say what if, perhaps, maybe, let’s try this. For fuck’s sake, it took Lucifer to introduce them to something other than missionary and doggy. No movies, no books, no internet. Just two beings, staring at each other all day. No fallen angels yet either.” I shuddered, remembering.
“For fuck’s sake indeed,” Lucifer murmured, irrepressible as always.
Adam was content with Lucifer and Lilith, but they weren’t.
Lilith wanted to explore the other worlds, to see outside the Garden.
Lucifer loved them, but he had his own world and his family. Coming to the Garden was never meant to be permanent.
“Yehovah didn’t take it well at all. He was dismayed enough at Lucifer sneaking into his Garden, but he allowed it because Adam and Lilith loved him. The last straw came when he thought that Lucifer was trying to take Adam and Lilith away. In his rage, he cast them out of the Garden and barred them from returning.”
“And then he created you?”
I hunched my shoulders. “Eventually.”
Those were bad days. Very bad days. Adam, despite not wanting to leave in the first place, was inconsolable at the loss of his loves.
“I always thought that keeping Adam was just another punishment rather than loving Adam most or any such tripe,” Lucifer said.
“Hey, some of us enjoy tripe.”
“Bullshit then. You know what I mean.”
“Might have been, but he’s never admitted to anything.”
Lucifer snorted. “As if he ever would.”
“Whatever he thought, eventually he gave in and created me for Adam.”
Probably to keep him from dying. We were immortal, but the sort of immortal with the caveat of “nothing bad happening”. Humans died of heartbreak all the time, and I’d always suspected that Adam came perilously close, even with the accelerated healing we all had.
“But it wasn’t the same?” Orpheus asked.
I nodded. “But it wasn’t the same.”
“Yehovah created the angels to help him watch over the Garden. Artificial intelligence, if you will. You see all the myths that say angels weren’t supposed to have free will? Welp. They’re the first examples of how AI can slip the bit and bridle. But that happened later.”
They say I was created from Adam’s rib. There’s some truth to that. More cloning than ripping out a rib and abracadabra-ing me into being from a chunk of bone and flesh, really, but there’s more than a little bit of truth in how Yehovah designed me to be more subservient to Adam.
I’m not the ultimate sub, no, but Yehovah did tie my joy to his and created a feedback loop where his pleasure fed mine.
It took us eons to break the gene-deep conditioning.
What Yehovah didn’t realize, was that since I found joy in making Adam happy, it would only follow that I made it my ultimate mission to find Lucifer and Lilith and bring them back to the Garden. Or to find a way of smuggling Adam out.
It wasn’t Lucifer that sneaked back into the Garden.
I snuck out.
“Imagine my surprise when this tiny little thing pops out of the boundary and demanded to be taken to Lilith.” Lucifer chuckled.
It wasn’t that hard. Mikhael and Ariel were sympathetic and pretended to look the other way when I went through the Gate. And Lucifer and Lilith were right there, along with Lucifer’s siblings. They’d kept an eye on the boundary, never losing hope.
“We sneaked back in, found Adam, and got thrown right back out again. Yehovah kept things humming along for a while, but then all the bubbles merged into one Earth and that was the end of that.”
Orpheus frowned. “So Adam really was the more passive partner? Seems hard to credit, even if he has had thousands of years to change.”
Oh. That. I knew I’d forgotten something.
“Adam isn’t and wasn’t passive.” I spat the word out with a roll of my eyes. “He’s an introvert and a homebody.”
“He’s also one of the most devoted, most loyal beings I have ever known,” Lucifer said softly.
“He didn’t want to go exploring; he wanted Lucifer to bring more beings into Eden. Then he was punished by being bound to Eden when Lucifer and Lilith were barred from returning. I didn’t have the same geas because no one ever thought I’d go looking for Lucifer and Lilith.”
I’d been designed to be even more of an introvert and homebody. I winced, remember how frantic Adam was when he found me gone. He was convinced something had managed to make off with me and kill me because I usually never left our dwelling unless I had to.
I should have said something to him before I left, but I hadn’t wanted to get his hopes up for nothing, and then his distress made it impossible to hide my defiance.
“He’s also not quite all there, is he?”
I glared at the bard.
Orpheus shrugged. “It’s pretty obvious. How much did you all break him anyway?”
“None of your business,” Adam said, tone flat.
The bard’s fingers stilled on his lyre.
Adam came over and stood in front of me, blocking Orpheus from view, a question in his gaze.
I nodded and held my arms out to be lifted into his embrace.
“You have your story, Orpheus. Now scoot,” Adam said.
Adam nuzzled my cheek and started walking away.
“Hey! Adam! You can’t —”
Lucifer snapped his fingers and the world shifted away.
“Is it time for a nap? Please tell me it’s time for a nap.”
I yawned, right on cue, and Lucifer bent in to brush his nose against mine.
“Naptime!” he said, satisfaction rife in every syllable. “Where’s Lilith?”
“Somewhere. She’s not nappish.”
“I’ll go get her,” Lucifer said, and disappeared.
I snuffled against Adam’s neck and closed my eyes. Naptime sounded like a fine idea.