Sisters Under the Skin

I stand with my sister Eve, blamed for the ills that plague a world, that plague man, and I laugh.  We laugh.

That we could do all of this?  You are mad.

And how convenient.  Blame our sex, blame our natures, blame our inconstancy, our curiosity into what is not ours to know.  Blame us for knowing evil.  Blame us because it is easier than blaming yourselves.

I am not sure which of us is more loathed.  Our stories ring so much the same it is hard to tell.

Eve claims she was the first woman in the world, given to Adam, but there is one called Lilith who swears this is not so.  One who left rather than play her role in this farce of

accusations and guilt.  But first or second, Eve only had Adam for company.  The first couple.  And she was tempted by a serpent, or so she claims.

She claims a great deal, this sister of mine.  She has bought into her own origin story, and that is never healthy.  She bows her head and says, “I did this,” and does not remember that she was set up.

“You may do all things but eat of the fruit of this one tree.”  She was told this by the very one who gave her curiosity, for did He not create her?

If one buys the myth.

Created as a gift, as a companion, to bring joy.

I, at least, was created to be a curse by a jealous god who did not want humans to thrive or to reach for the sky.  Zeus named me Pandora and asked all the gods and goddesses to favor me with gifts, and then he sent me down to wreak havoc among man.

Sent to live among them, as if I was one of them, but I was forged by Hephaestus and given breath by the four winds.  How human can I be if Hera gave me beauty and Aphrodite taught me to love?  Which god gave me curiosity?  Hermes, no doubt.  That great deceiver.

Sister Eve knew a deceiver, too.

Our stories become similar at this point, my sister’s and mine.  Zeus gave me a jar, a lovely jar stoppered but clearly containing something.  A jar of beauty so sublime one could only imagine the preciousness of whatever was inside.

“Here,” he said, “take this as a wedding gift but never, ever open it.”

Of course I did.  It was mine.  I was fashioned to want to open it.

But do you really believe I alone brought misery to this world?  That deceit and malice and anguish did not already exist?

That mankind lived in some paradise of cooperation and joy?

Ah, my sister finally rouses.  She murmurs something about the Garden—Paradise and the expulsion from same.

And in the background, I hear Lilith’s laugh.  Her voice is beautiful, though some would have you think it not.  Her beauty is the same as Eve’s, only it is hers to control since she never submitted.  Never bent her head and accepted the role of scapegoat.

And for that she is considered a demon.

Do I have such a counterpart?  Can one not be found so I, too, can say, “But I was not the first”?

Only Eve does not say that.  She does not take the easy out, does not cling to the knowledge that her god failed when he made Lilith and had to try again, had to make Eve more gullible, more curious, less her own person.

In this, if nothing else, she wants the power.  She wants to be the first and only so that she at least had some agency in all this.  I feel her struggle.  I hear Lilith’s laugh and envy her freedom and envy Eve’s choice.

I have no fallback.  It was I who opened the jar and either let misery out or did not, your choice.  And I know how you choose.  I know how the story goes, for it has been told for a long time now and we “first women” are not stupid, even if we are guilty of being betrayed by the gods we trusted.  How could they do this to us?  Do they not love us?

It is confusing.  To hold one’s head up, when everyone believes so strongly in our guilt, is difficult beyond measure.

Perhaps my counterpart, my Lilith, is the Hope the legends say was at the bottom of the jar, beaten down and weak from spending time with so many ugly things.  Hope singing softly as it made the long climb to freedom, comforting me as it emerged from the lip of the jar, shining brightly against the now-tarnished gold and ebony.

Hope.  I have it.  Eve does not.

But we sit here, sisters under the skin, daughters of different mothers but tarred by the same brush of shame and stupidity.

Women.  Blame the woman.  It is her fault.

It is always her fault.

Perhaps we should talk about the flood next?

[Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle.  She has stories and poems published or accepted in: Escape Pod, Grimdark, Spellbound, Sword and Sorceress XXIII, SpinetinglersShe Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror and others.  She is editing an anthology, A Quiet Shelter There, which will benefit homeless animals and is due out in 2015 from Hadley Rille Books.  See more at http://www.gerrileen.com.]

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